This grocery store group is offering customers a digital divorce for a few hundred dollars

This grocery store group is offering customers a digital divorce for a few hundred dollars
PHOTO: The New Paper

Couples often plan to separate ahead of the holiday season but don't discuss it until January to avoid upsetting family members, according to a UK grocery and services group.

Now they won't even have to leave home to get a settlement, thanks to a new online service.

British company the Co-operative Group - known as the Co-op - is aiming to make it easy for couples to split up, by offering customers a "digital divorce" service that can be completed in as little as four months.

It means a couple can formally separate without having to leave home and avoid costly legal fees potentially involved when visiting a lawyer's office.

The starting price for a Co-op digital divorce is £600 (S$1,093), with court fees of £550. If a couple goes to a solicitor, they would usually pay between £2,000 and £3,000 in fees, up to around £30,000 for contested cases that end up in court, according to the UK's Money Advice Service.

In the US, the average cost of a divorce is around US$20,000 (S$26,428), according to the Divorce Statistics website.

Sixty-two per cent of the Co-op's divorce enquiries come through its website and the company said the first three months of the year are its busiest.

"Couples have often already considered divorcing for a number of months, but they then hold off announcing their plans until after the festive period, mainly to avoid upset among family members," Tracey Moloney, head of family law at Co-op Legal Services, said in an online statement. "We receive the highest number of enquiries in March after couples have discussed their plans in January."

Sometimes divorce queries come through in the early hours of the morning, Moloney added.

The Co-op's website shows how someone can "Get divorced in five steps." After filling out a form online, a solicitor will call the customer, before divorce papers are signed. These are then sent to court, and the spouse of the person who filed for divorce will be contacted. Once they agree, the divorce is completed.

This type of separation isn't for everyone, however. It will only work for those who remain amicable, or have agreed mutually to separate.

The Co-operative Group, which is made up of grocery chain Co-op Food, as well as a funeral service, insurance and legal arms, has 3,750 outlets in the UK The legal business made £22 million in revenue in 2016, according to its latest filing.

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