independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

DIY divorce firm offers 'step-by-step' gift vouchers for Christmas

Break-up: Cathy O'Brien, founder of DIY Divorce Ltd

MOST of us will wake on Christmas Day to be greeted by stockings filled with nice but normal treats – chocolate, CDs and maybe some festive socks.

However, some Irish people are in for one hell of a gift this year – a pain-free path to divorce, courtesy of their new partners.

That's according to Bray woman Cathy O'Brien, founder of DIY Divorce Ltd, who has been asked for a very different kind of Christmas present from some of her clients this year.

Now up and running for 13 years, DIY Divorce does exactly what it says on the tin – presenting people with a step-by-step process and the paperwork to bring their marriage to an end.

Cathy is currently offering a specialist voucher for €249, which she says is popular as a unique gift this festive season.

"In the past couple of months, I have had people come in who said they were buying the vouchers as Christmas presents for their current partners," she told the Sunday Independent.

"We do get quite unusual requests like that, although I'm not sure how the partners react to it," she said, laughing.

The voucher includes divorce papers, a step-by-step guide, and full telephone support for the duration of the three-four month divorce process.

But the voucher does not cover the cost of affidavits, which must be signed by a solicitor, and pension and property orders require an additional cost.

Over the years, Cathy has heard stranger scenarios than you would find on some soap operas.

"We get some funny calls like the same old man that always rings up to ask can we provide him with girls," she said.

While Irish people are now much more acceptant of divorce, according to Cathy, her choice of career still attracts its share of criticism.

"It has happened now and again where we would get people ringing up with private numbers telling me that I am going to hell and that I am breaking up marriages.

"I usually just tell them to ring me back when their number is not on private and then hang up on them.

"Because there is a four-year rule in Ireland before divorce proceedings can start, most people don't talk by the time the proceedings come around.

"If they do, they usually admit that they are now better friends than when they were married, so I don't get too much abuse," added Cathy.

After the passing of the divorce referendum in 1996, Cathy got her first taste of the DIY business when she filed her own divorce papers in 1999.

When she began helping out friends who were going through the painful process, she was encouraged to consider it as a full-time career by her partner, whom she later married.

The idea behind the company, the first of its kind to be set up in Ireland, was to avoid the cost of solicitor fees and Cathy says she is still making a living from her full-time business today.

"It is steady now so we are kept going," she said. "A lot of people are choosing this way because it is cheaper, and we can do it with someone once there are no major issues, such as a fight over property.

"It starts off with an email or phone conversation, and we make sure that there are no issues preventing it from being done this way.

"Then we send them a questionnaire and the appropriate paperwork, which they have to file with the court office in the county where they live."

Sunday Independent

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