Till death do us part? Not in Weston-super-Mare...

Revealed: Top ten courts for the number of divorce petitions

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The Independent Online

Well-known for its Grand Pier, promenade and beaches, the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare has emerged as an unlikely capital for unhappily married couples.

Some 2,447 divorce petitions were lodged in the coastal town of just 80,000 people last year - the second highest level of any city or town outside London.

Birmingham topped the list with 2,799 couples applying for divorce in the year to October, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said, but in comparison has a population of 1.1 million.

Leicester County Court came third on the list of divorce applications with 1,831 petitions, followed by Romford County Court with 1,783 and Coventry Combined Court Centre with 1,766.

The MoJ released the figures as it urged separating couples to use publicly-funded third-party mediators in a bid to avoid traumatic courtroom battles.

Synonymous with images of donkey-rides, kiss-me-quick hats and helter-skelters, Weston boomed in the late 19th century into one of Victorian England's most popular resorts but by the late 1960s was struggling to compete with overseas destinations.

The Somerset town hit headlines in 2008 when its Grand Pier burnt down, leading to a multimillion-pound redevelopment which attracted 52,000 visitors when it reopened.

The wettest summer on record last year reportedly saw trade for some hotel and restaurant owners fall by up to 60%, piling pressure on the town's tourism industry.

The MoJ expects to spend £25 million on mediation services this year, while it has changed the law so couples seeking a court order over child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation assessment session first.

Family justice minister Lord McNally said: "All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes."

Mediation services involve the use of an independent and qualified third-party to help couples divide their assets or arrange child contact without going to court.

The top ten courts for the number of divorce petitions filed in the last year were:

* Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and Family Courts - 2,799

* Weston-super-Mare County Court - 2,437

* Leicester County Court - 1,831

* Romford County Court - 1,783

* Coventry Combined Court Centre - 1,776

* Norwich Combined Court Centre - 1,775

* Bristol County Court - 1,705

* Croydon County Court - 1,672

* Nottingham County Court - 1,611

* Chelmsford County and Family Proceedings Court - 1,567