Why marital meltdown means you can have your cake and eat it

On one of the most popular cakes, the bride stands triumphant. At the bottom the groom lies in a heap, his worldly belongings scattered down the three tiers and the neat pink icing reads: "Free At Last".

Tasteless, perhaps, but up and down the country, confectioners have recently seen an increasing number of orders for divorce cakes as the end of marriage becomes as much a cause for celebration as the beginning.

Yesterday, Debenhams joined the party by launching its divorce gift list. A spokesman for the department store insisted the service was simply answering a modern demand. It was, the company said, a natural successor to the ranges of divorce greetings cards which moved from the niche to the mass market.

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The idea of hanging out the bunting on receipt of a degree absolute is not likely to win over every divorcee, but times are certainly changing and more and more of us are likely to follow in the footsteps of Heather Mills or Jordan, both of whom marked the end of their nuptials with a party.

When Suzy Miller's 10 year relationship ended in 2003 she admits she didn't feel much like celebrating. With three children under six, she struggled to come to terms with being a single mother, but the split eventually inspired her to start her own business and last year she launched the first Starting Over Show. Everyone else dubbed it the UK's first Divorce Fair. While the publicity was not all favourable, the event, which sees family lawyers setting up stalls next to life coaches and colour therapists, has gone from strength to strength.

"When my relationship came to an end, I felt a fool, I just hadn't seen it coming," says Suzy. "But I learnt that it doesn't have to be such a terrible disaster, it doesn't have to mean the end of your happiness. I know it feels like that at the time, but the ending of one relationship can open doors to so many other things.

"I know it seems strange to view the end of a relationship as a good thing, but sometimes it is for the best. It was tough getting to where I am now and on the way I learnt that accessing the right information, support and help, legally, financially and emotionally was essential. It takes courage and determination to believe in a positive future when life seems nothing but a struggle and I wanted to make all the help I had found available to other people."

Suzy certainly has no shortage of potential customers. In the UK, more than 140,000 couples divorce each year. Add to that the thousands of unmarried, but cohabiting couples who go their separate ways and it seems the newly single market is flourishing.

"The recession has put even more of a strain on some relationships and helping people through a painful split has never been more important," says Suzy, who also runs a website dedicated to helping people through the minefield of divorce and separation. "When I was with my partner it never really crossed my mind to start up my own business, but finding yourself alone does focus the mind.

"A relationship break up can be the perfect time to make positive changes whether that's starting up the business you always dreamed of, getting your pension sorted, or losing weight and taking more care of your health. However, I don't think anyone would pretend that it's easy.

"There are so many practical things that people have to sort out from selling the house to deciding who gets what and at a time when people feel at their lowest possible ebb that can be incredibly difficult.

"Our events are a real mix of life coaches and counsellors as well as financial mediators and lawyers. Everyone coming out of a relationship will need different advice, it's about finding out what's right for them.

"At the time, splitting up with my partner was the most painful and traumatic experience of my life. However, now when I look back I am grateful that my ex had the courage to end a relationship which was not right for either of us. Divorce doesn't have to be the end, some times it's just the beginning."