- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Breaking up is hard to do. But lawyers, counselors, astrologists and lifestyle coaches at Britain’s first divorce fair this weekend will aim to make the process easier.

The fair _ cheerily named the “Starting Over Show” _ takes place Sunday at a cozy hotel in the seaside resort town of Brighton.

Organizer Suzy Miller said the event would aim to focus on the positive, starting with a warming cup of tea and a chunk of homemade cake. Musicians will play live and there will be play areas for kids.

“There are wedding fairs everywhere telling you how to tie the knot, but when people go through a divorce they need more help, more support,” Miller said.

Though Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe, Miller said the Brighton event would be unlike the continent’s first divorce fair in Austria two years ago, which featured private investigators and companies offering paternity tests.

Instead, psychics would offer to heal people’s minds and bodies, and one company suggests boosting finances by selling a healthy version of chocolate, she said. Many of the 30 or so exhibitors, who have paid up to 1,600 pounds ($2,245) for a stall, plan to focus on having fun.

“Sometimes people just need someone to talk to,” said exhibitor Martina Mercer-Hall, who uses astrology and alternative therapies to advise on designing one’s home after divorce.

One exhibitor promises to organize the footwear equivalent of Tupperware parties, selling stilettos instead of food storage tubs. Another plans art appreciation vacations. On a more pragmatic note, the fair offers debt counselors and mediators to help couples navigate divorce without lawyers.

In Britain, 2.6 people of every thousand are divorced, compared with a European average of 1.8, according to EU statistics gathered in 2001. A 2002 report from the Center for Policy Studies think-tank says Britain offers few tax or welfare advantages to being married, and suggests younger people do not view a marriage commitment as seriously.

Divorce lawyers say business is booming, as the country’s recession puts pressure on marriages.

Earlier this week, financier Brian Myerson asked a court to reassess his March 2008 divorce settlement in which he agreed to pay his ex-wife 40 percent of his 25.8 million pound ($36 million) fortune because the value of his assets has plummeted.

“We are seeing husbands making inquiries on divorce. They want to sort their finances now as the economic downturn is pushing down the value of their assets,” said Alan Larkin, a partner of law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter.

But Larkin wondered whether people going through a painful separation would want to attend such a public and festive event.

Organizers have sold 300 advance tickets at about five pounds ($7) each.

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