Credit crunch link to split-ups

AS financial worries caused by the credit crunch lead to record numbers of marriages breaking up, one North East scientist has seen her DNA business boom.

Louise Allcroft

AS financial worries caused by the credit crunch lead to record numbers of marriages breaking up, one North East scientist has seen her DNA business boom.

Louise Allcroft, who runs Sunderland-based DNA testing firm Complement Genomics, has experienced soaring demand for her paternity testing service since the start of the year.

The company is licensed to take on court-directed testing on behalf of lawyers and the result of a paternity test is usually at the centre of a marital dispute or divorce proceedings.

Last week the business received more paternity-test requests than it would usually get in a month, with Ms Allcroft citing financial pressures caused by the economic downturn and the often stressful festive period for surging demand.

She said: “At Christmas time, families are forced together in very strained circumstances and everything comes under a microscope and, with the current economic climate, most people are stretched. We have been astonished at the level of interest in DNA testing following the holidays. We were not able to fully predict how the credit crunch would affect the take-up of our paternity services in the New Year, but the level of interest shown clearly indicates that people see resolution of relationship issues as a high priority.”

Complement’s service conducts tests to prove whether or not there is a genetic relationship between family members, most commonly between father and child.

It was the first company to launch internet-based paternity testing in 2002 and is now accredited by the highest laboratory standard, giving it credence with the law courts.

According to the latest figures, the economic downturn has multiplied divorce rates considerably.

In December, the Local Government Authority conducted a survey which found that 93% of local authorities had seen a growth in demand for relationship counselling since the start of the credit crunch.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by online divorce advisers InsideDivorce.com estimated that close to two million couples in the country are facing marital problems, with an additional 1.3 million thought to be considering making the split.

Jonathan Flower, head of family law at Newcastle law firm Ward Hadaway, said: “Christmas year on year is always a busy time for family lawyers and this year has been no exception.

“The credit crunch is fuelling the fire, although it’s worth mentioning that people are rather cautious at the moment and getting divorced can be a difficult process.

“There is one school of thought that says now is a good time to get divorced, as you might get out of it quite cheaply, but also it could be a bad time, particularly for older people who have seen their pension funds crash – there’s no script for this at the moment.”

Britain’s largest internet divorce firm Divorce Online had the busiest December in its 10-year history, with a 50% increase in cases on the same period the previous year. The number of inquiries it received on New Year’s Day grew four-fold while advice website takelegaladvice.com saw divorce-related matters climb by a third on the last year.

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