First divorce fair helps you part in style
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First divorce fair helps you part in style

An enterprising businessman is all set to give you a hand in splitting from your former loved one if your happily-ever-after has turned into a never-ending nightmare.

world Updated: Oct 30, 2007 12:53 IST

Forget your romantic notions about Vienna - the city of waltz music and quaint cafes. In Austria's capital two out of three marriages go down the drain. Reason enough, one enterprising businessman found, to give them a hand in splitting from their former loved ones.

Held at a city centre hotel last weekend, "New Beginning" - marketed as the world's first divorce fair - left little room for rose-tinted illusions.

One of the first stalls prospective divorcees encountered was run by biologist Susanne Haas. For 420 euros ($603), she offers paternity tests, giving 99.9-per cent assurance to those doubting fathers who fear their offspring might be one of the 8-10 per cent of children not fathered by the one paying the nappy bills.

About 20 exhibitors - lawyers, real estate agents or party organisers - offered advice on how to turn your "I do" into an "I am getting out of here".

Organiser Anton Barz was encouraged to set up his fair when hearing about the problems many of his acquaintances had with the logistics of a divorce. Visitors agreed that in such a painful and stressful situation it was good to get all the necessary information in one place.

After two more events in other Austrian cities, Barz plans to go global. Interest has been expressed in Germany, Switzerland, the US and South Africa.

"If you look at the statistics, it is clear that the demand is there," said Barz, who, serving both ends, also organises wedding fairs.

But if your happily-ever-after has turned into a never-ending nightmare, some help may be welcome to untie the knot.

While the few dozen singles-to-be looked a little intimidated, queuing in front of a divorce lawyer's stall or shyly approaching a marriage councillor, private investigator Christoph Jaeger was introducing his trade.

"Most of my customers want to know if and with whom they are being cheated on," he said. For $7,000 to 14,000 (5,000 to 10,000 euros), spurned wives and cuckolded husbands can get full-colour details about their beloved spouses' important business meetings or pottery classes.

Tackling the problem from a different angle, the Marriage Network, a multi-confessional Christian pro-marriage organisation, bemoans the loss of Christian values and morals.

While insisting that they were not trying to torpedo divorces, their stall was offering alternatives, "encouraging people that there are also other options besides a divorce".

One of their attempts to salvage seemingly doomed marriages is offering weekends away to rediscover one's partner - an idea that met with scepticism from at least one visitor, who insisted that she had seen quite enough of her husband, thank you very much.

However, despite claims that people today are taking marriage too lightly, a divorce is still seen as a last resort. "I want to consult a marriage counsellor, but my wife refuses to go," one middle-aged man said.

As a distraction from this grim outlook visitors could browse at stalls offering hair extensions or consult dating agencies.

"Women need to change their look, to mark the change," a female visitor said.

However, despite the odds, hope has not died among those once bitten. The dating agencies' stalls were doing brisk trade.

First Published: Oct 30, 2007 12:39 IST