What is a divorce hotel?
Although divorce can be highly confrontational and traumatic for some couples who are wanting to separate, there are others who have drifted gradually apart and wish to divorce in such a way that respects each other and the good times that were once shared. In various countries now the Divorce Hotel is popping up: a way to encourage an amicable and celebratory divorce.
Divorce Hotel – a.k.a. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’
Divorce Hotel began in the Netherlands and was the brainchild of Jim Halfens. He came up with the idea after watching a friend go through a very painful and expensive separation. Halfens said the idea behind the “hotel” is to promote positivity in the separation process.
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“If people are positive and want a positive divorce they can come to us, but not everyone is suitable for the hotel,” he said. “For those people who are too distraught to go through with a peaceful divorce, the Divorce Hotel offers an inexpensive traditional divorce.”
It’s a divorce in 3 days, mediators and other specialists – notaries, even psychologists – are on hand to help the couple. Couples thinking about going through the Divorce Hotel process have to start with a set of extensive interviews. If they decide they can settle their differences quickly with the help of a mediator, then they choose a four or five star hotel.
Marie-Louise Van As is the lawyer who works as a mediator at the Divorce Hotel she says that “If the marriage can be saved, we always tell people they are at the wrong address at the divorce hotel” and she notes that the three-day hotel stays are not a vacation. There are checklists, homework she calls it, that the couples have to do ahead of time.
The Divorce Hotel is not a geographical location on a map. It is a Dutch based company that doesn’t build or own any hotels, but rather rents luxurious spaces in existing, well-regarded establishments. They started in the Netherlands, but are currently deploying all over the world. It has proved popular in the United States and the most recent launch has been in the United Kingdom.
From the United Kingdom
David Leckie, a trained mediator and counsellor, brought the concept to Britain in March following its success across the pond in the US. David said: “If couples want to use the Divorce Hotel they obviously can’t be wanting to throw furniture at each other. Both have got to want a positive outcome for each other – people have got to want to move on in an amicable fashion.”
He believes there is a demand for “divorcing in a positive manner” – but admits English law does not make it easy and tends to encourage “the blame game”.
He said: “This is really good for people who want to divorce efficiently, effectively and non-acrimoniously.” Adding: “Divorce can turn the most loving relationship into the most hurtful.”
Over the weekend couples will work with a mediator and lawyer to an agreed budget – costing between £6,000 and £10,000 depending on the complexities. The paperwork is usually finalised over the weekend and be sent to the courts, with the divorce coming through three months later.
From the United States
A couple who had been married for 24 years and wanted to divorce but remain friends have attended Britain’s first even Divorce Hotel and come away happy from the experience. The wife said: “I don’t feel sad. The whole process means closure to the marriage – but not closure to the relationship.” The couple’s experience at Divorce Hotel was a highly positive one as they spent one afternoon watching the rugby together and a final meal as husband and wife. The husband added: “It was the first meal of our new relationship. I feel our new relationship with be a positive one.”
Another couple who visited a Divorce Hotel in upstate New York also had a very positive divorce experience. “We laughed. We had a few drinks,” says 52-year-old Cathy, a nurse at NYU. “This is the best weekend we’ve had in years,” agrees D., a 53-year-old Wall Street banker. After having been married for 26 years, the childhood sweethearts decided to separate.
“Nobody did anything wrong,” says Cathy. “It’s two people going on different paths.” In a Gwyneth-inspired dash of whimsy, she looks at it philosophically: “I’m getting ‘unmarried’ this weekend,” she says. “Divorce has such a horrible connotation.”
Family Law in Australia Already Promotes Mediation
In Australia, mediation is strongly encouraged and couples can only divorce if they have been separated for 12 months or more. Attending mediation is not compulsory when the parties have reached an agreement on how to settle their property and are satisfied with the parenting arrangement they have worked out together. Nor is it compulsory in the case of family violence or the matter is urgent. But you do have to attempt Family Dispute Resolution before you can take your matter to the Family Court.
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It’s been shown that as well as positive short term effects there are positive long term effects for couples and their children who choose the mediation process. A study that looked at the long term effects of mediation found that those parents were more satisfied than their more adversarial counterparts 12 years down the track and they were able to discuss and resolve problems with greater frequency.
Although Divorce Hotel is not yet a feature on the Australian landscape, the family law system has encouraged non-adversarial divorce for a long time.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we aim to help you have a divorce that is as conflict free as possible. Our lawyers are skilled at mediation and always believe in putting the best interests of children first. To speak to one of our experienced family lawyers please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.