A SALE law firm has seen a surge in calls due to a recent plotline in EastEnders.

Slater Heelis Solicitous say their number of enquiries into mediation has doubled after character Michael Moon - played by Steve Shepherd - sought legal advice in separating from wife Janine Butcher - portrayed by Charlie Brooks - and was recommended the process by the on-screen family lawyer.

Wendy Buckley, a deputy district judge and solicitor and mediation lawyer at Slater Heelis has welcomed the storyline for promoting awareness of the process.

She said: “I watched the episode of EastEnders when it aired on Tuesday and was really pleased to see that such a high profile show was featuring it.

“When couples come to divorce, being offered mediation as an option can make a huge difference to their short and long-term future, especially if children are concerned, as in this storyline.

“We have seen numerous calls asking about mediation, which can only be a positive thing, especially in the light of the recent cuts to legal aid,” she added.

The process, which is seen as cheaper and simpler than divorce, involves couples seeking separation sitting down with a trained, independent mediator and working out a deal rather than going to court.

Since April 1, separating couples are no longer eligible for financial assistance with their legal fees under government plans to cut £350m a year from the £2.2bn legal aid bill, unless domestic violence or child protection is involved.

The average time to complete a divorce through mediation is 110 days, compared with 435 days for court cases, while the average overall cost is £535, compared with up to £7,000 in courts.