One of the most remarkable social phenomena of the last few decades has been the unstoppable rise of the mobile phone. Once they were the size of bricks, didn’t weigh much less and were strictly for ostentatious businessmen. Now mobiles are svelte rectangles, weigh just a few ounces and are almost universal. They have evolved from mobile phones into ‘smartphones’, carried almost everywhere. Climb on any commuters’ train and the number of people sitting or standing while gazing at smartphone screens will outnumber those reading a traditional ink-and-paper book or newspaper several times, I guarantee it.
So it’s no surprise, really, to read about the rise of the so-called smartphone divorce. According to new research, the numbers of people using their phones to launch divorce proceedings online has shot up by 50 per cent over the last year – even though the divorce rate as a whole is falling.
The statistics, reported in the Mail, paint an interesting picture of differences between the sexes. We already know that most divorces are initiated by women – something like two thirds – but when it comes to filing online, men edge into the lead: 51 vs 49 per cent. And then they race ahead when it come to smartphone divorce: 65 per cent of these are filed by men. Couples use their phones in different ways it seems.
The figures come from a company called Divorce Depot, which offers users superficially simple online divorce options. Yes, they have a vested interest, but I actually have no trouble believing their figures. The firm links the steep rise in the popularity of smartphone divorce to April’s abolition of legal aid for most family law cases, and it’s not difficult to see why couples struggling to make ends meet might be attracted by what seems like a quick solution to a rarely easy process.
But a note of caution must be sounded. The old adage ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’ applies equally well to divorce. Rush into your break up without taking proper legal advice on your rights and options and you run a real risk of losing out on your fair share of the marital assets, whether that be property, money or other valuables. Expensive mistakes are very hard – sometimes impossible – to rectify later. Decisions made during a divorce could affect the rest of your life, so it seems more than sensible to ensure you make the right ones. Take the time you need.
Perhaps this touchscreen, tickbox approach to divorce is best suited to amicable separations, when couples remain trusted friends even after deciding they no longer share the same goals or have drifted apart. And yes – such couples do exist! But even they would be well advised to look carefully before they leap.