Debenhams has been accused of glorifying divorce following the controversial launch of its Divorce Gift List service today.
The high street chain’s new service will encourage divorcing couples to ask friends and family to purchase gifts that will enable them to set up their separate homes.
However, pro-family groups have accused the store of cashing in on people’s misery.
Norman Wells, the Director of the Family Educational Trust, said: “This smacks of a cynical attempt by a high street chain to cash in on the misery of people whose marriages have come under pressure.”
But Debenhams spokesman Ruth Attridge defended the gift list, saying: “We are not encouraging people to get divorced, but unfortunately it is a fact of life.”
She added: “I am sure some people won’t be happy but we are neither pro- or anti-divorce. We do an anniversary and birthday gift list, so we thought ‘why not do one for divorce’?”
However, Mr Wells said: “Given that most couples separate before filing for divorce and certainly long before the divorce comes through, this is a strange initiative.
“Items to help set up a new home would be needed at a much earlier stage.
“Instead of going out of their way to glorify divorce, Debenhams could simply have established a ‘setting up a new home’ gift list which could cover any and every eventuality.”
In December a London law firm was accused of trivialising divorce after it began selling divorce gift vouchers for Christmas.
The divorce rate in the UK is one of the highest in the world with 12 divorces per 1,000 married people in 2007.
Research has highlighted the problems caused by divorce.
Last year it was revealed that people who divorce are likely to suffer long-term health problems including heart disease and cancer.
The research, carried out by Professor Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, found that lasting damage is caused by the stress and financial uncertainty experienced by divorcees.
Two major reports published in 2008 also highlighted the damaging impact of divorce on children.
The National Child Development Study concluded that divorce has “repercussions that reverberate through childhood and into adulthood”, and a report by the Good Childhood Inquiry warned that family breakdown was a major cause of harm to children’s mental health.
Another 2008 study revealed that most under 10-year-olds would make divorce illegal if they ruled the world.