When you think of divorce, what springs immediately to mind? Acrimony? China shattering? Lengthy custody battles? Bitter pre-nup reassessment? Dutch entrepreneur Jim Halfens hopes that, soon, you’ll associate divorce with a weekend stay in a posh hotel. He’s looking to expand his thriving Netherlands-based business, The Divorce Hotel, to the U.S.
The idea beyond Halfens’ Divorce Hotel is to check unhappily married couples in on Friday, spend the weekend linking them with mediators and divorce lawyers, and check them out Sunday, signed divorce papers in hand. No muss, no fuss. It may seem kind of wild, in theory, but in practice, sixteen couples have successfully made the transitioning, bolstering Halfens’ confidence that the concept has legs.
Of course, this quick and gimmicky process isn’t for everyone. In a New York Times piece this weekend, divorce attorney Richard S. Cohen, who’s handled his fair share of high-stakes and complex divorces asserts:
“The notion of being able to — at the beginning of a split-up — spend a weekend putting these various pieces together and coming to a solution to them would be virtually impossible. I don’t see how one would do it and come up with a fair result.”
He notes that divorce proceedings are often a highly emotional time for couples. “And the notion they’re now going to spend two days with each other at some fancy hotel seems to me not to be a very likely scenario,” he says. “Most people getting divorced don’t want to see each other again except when they have to.”
Though Cohen does concede that the Divorce Hotel could work in a case where the couple in question were still on good terms, he has his doubts about it catching on here in the States.
This whole super-civil Splitsville business reminds me of a 2002 short story by pop journalist Toure, “The Break-Up Ceremony.” In it, a couple goes through an aisle-walking ritual similar to that of a wedding ceremony. They’re surrounded by friends and family who’ve come to witness the split. They return items they want the other person to keep. They recite vows and grievances, promising to keep their distance from each other romantically, but to remain friends. If you can track the story down in Toure’s debut fiction collection, The Portable Promised Land, it’s a really interesting read.
I wondered after finishing it about the viability of the idea. Would it make sense for couples who’d been together long enough for friends and family to invest in their relationship to hold a public, semi-formal gathering to “celebrate” the dissolution of their relationship and the continuation of their friendship?
It appears that the idea is worth promoting. The Divorce Hotel is after the same thing: a meeting a two formerly-in-love minds to find the most fair and drama-free way to split.
Would you be down with either idea or are these oversimplifications of much larger issues?