UK Dopers: tell me about divorces and gift registries

To make a VERY long story short, my (American) college roommate is finally leaving her schmuckface (British) husband of 20+ years and moving out into her own place with basically nothing. He is “letting” her take a chair and a bedside table, and some friends are giving or lending her a few things long-term, but she is basically starting over with nothing at 52 years old. They live in the southeast of England, not far from Dover.

She is not fabulous at advocating for herself, and also she says they don’t have much on the way of nice housewares anyway, so she didn’t want to take much from the house in any case. Where could I buy a housewarming gift for her online and have it shipped to her? Are gift registries a thing in the UK, so she could set one up for herself so her friends and family in the US know what she needs?

Also, what does she need to know about the UK legal system about her rights in case of divorce? (Her local friends will also help her with this one.)

Seems obvious to me, she needs to get proper representation - loads of possibles out there, could also try Citizens Advice Office for a start - there will also be online support groups too.

To be honest your description of her makes me believe she may have self esteem issues, which would be pretty normal in such a situation.

She needs to speak to a family law solictor

It sounds like the schmuck is taking advantage of her ignorance. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is indeed a good place for initial, and free, advice.

I know little about divorce law here but I do know that no judge likes to see anyone disadvantaged like this.

I never heard of ‘gift registries’ but maybe a GoFund Me site would serve. Be very wary of sending actual gifts as she may be liable for tax/import duty.

I’m in the US, but there’s an site. Would a wishlist on that site work?

Gift registries are definitely a thing here, chiefly for weddings - never heard of one for a divorce, but now you’ve explained the situation, I guess it could make sense. It definitely seems like your friend needs legal assistance to get what she is entitled to from the divorce, but I guess a little charity from friends could help in the meantime. If she can’t or won’t set up a wish list, an Amazon or John Lewis voucher is an excellent choice unless you know exactly what she wants/needs.

She is getting advice from British friends who have been divorced, and I hope they are pointing her in the right direction. (And yes, she has had self-esteem issues for as long as I have known her, which is nearly 35 years now!)

I hope she will get good legal and practical advice from her local friends, but she is apparently moving into her new place on Monday and for now I am concerned with the immediate term. Maybe I will just send her an IKEA gift card or something? And yes, I am aware of the import duty issues, which is why I want to order something online to be shipped to her from within the UK. (It will get there much sooner, anyway.)

I had a horrible experience with a few years back when I tried to send a gift to my in-laws. Shipment was delayed for over a month, and when I tried contacting customer service, they sent duplicate shipment and wanted my in-laws to pay to return the second one when it arrived. I am not giving them any more of my money.

UK-based folks, any other suggestions for a place that sells decent quality, reasonably priced housewares where I can buy a gift card and have it sent to her? I am leaning toward IKEA, but they don’t have everything. After a few Whatsapp exchanges with her, I now know that she is starting basically from scratch and it’s probably just simpler for her to pick what she needs herself.

There is no UK legal system - the relevant one here is England, which is as different from the Scotland and Northern Ireland legal systems as the Louisiana legal system is different from that of New York (I don’t know whether Wales has changed divorce law there since the Welsh Assembly was founded).

You picked a bit of an off example there. Pick any other state vs New York.

(Louisiana is the lone non-common-law state in the US. It is more different from the other states than any of the other states from each other, or England from Scotland, I’d wager.)

Ah, nevermind. I didn’t know there were civil law elements in Scots law. Maybe it’s comparable.

I deliberately picked Louisiana, as most other US states’ legal systems probably have more in common with that of England than does the Scottish one (the actual content of the law with respect to divorce in each jurisdiction will obviously be much more variable).

OK, can we talk substantively about England then instead of Scotland or Louisiana?

Ikea is the standard here for good value flat pack furniture, so could be a good choice if that’s what she needs. Putting together anything bigger than a nightstand alone is a challenge though. If things like cooking equipment/appliances are more vital, I’d go for John Lewis.

ETA: John Lewis is exclusively British though, so I’ve no idea if you can buy their gift vouchers online using a US form of payment.

Is there even an Ikea near her and does she have a car? As far as I can tell the closest one is in London. Of course, if she’s up for it, definitely a solid choice in her situation.

She might want to do something a bit more short term, that is, depending on the generosity of friends for a bit, before setting up a whole new flat.

Also the whole lockdown thing makes things really difficult.

She doesn’t have a car, doesn’t drive, and it looks like Ikea stores are closed except for click and collect anyway. London is not going to happen, and all the Ikea stores seem to be near London. But Ikea does ship smaller housewares, which is why I was considering it for a gift card.

The flat is already rented and she is moving in tomorrow. This might all be less difficult if not for the, you know, giant global pandemic and UK lockdown.

She is a remote teacher and needs her own, quiet space in order to work. That doesn’t work very well with a couch surfing situation.

Yeah, since all but the smallest Ikea furniture, even when packed flat, require a large car and upwards to transport, I was assuming delivery.

I’ll second (or third) John Lewis as a good bet, if you can purchase a gift card from the US. It’s not cheap and cheerful like IKEA (in fact it’s probably medium- high end), but it does sell almost everything, there’s one in almost every major town and you can use their gift cards online as well as in store.

If you’re looking for a lower-end alternative, maybe Argos gift cards (, which is difficult to explain if you didn’t grow up with them, but is a big warehouse style multi-retailer where you order from their ‘catalogue’, or preorder online, and they bring it to the counter for you. They sell almost everything too, are ubiquitous and open for collection during lockdown (though delivery is a bit hit or miss).

Another option, what used to be called High Street vouchers, now Which is a multi-store gift card (and you can use these at both JL and Argos, as well as a wealth of other retailers, though not all accept them online).


This is a really good idea as Argos collection is available in Sainsburys supermarkets and they are ubiquitous.

Having one’s own space can be quite important. Actually I was thinking of her being able to borrow furniture, etc., instead of buying everything at once, because she may make further decisions about location, etc. after her situation, including lockdown, is a bit more stable.

I wish her well and you’re a good friend for helping her.

Home furnishings/homeware stores with strong online presence:

John Lewis. The go-to for quality, but at decent prices. Very well regarded store, not the cheapest. Great for electricals. fashionable furniture at good prices, but not as cheap as Ikea. Purely online.
Not on the high street - online portal for gift items from small, artisan homeware designers (and a load of other stuff).
Wayfair - general portal for everything home. Cheap.
Habitat. Fashionable, mid-priced.

Ikea now delivers, so don’t discount it.

And Citizens Advice for free legal advice. It’s a national charity.