Offbeat: Divorce Hotel

It had to happen. Hotels are, after all, second homes, where a lot of us go to to celebrate important milestones like weddings, honey moons and family reunions.

Dutch enterpreneur Jim Halfens. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

An enterprising Dutch hotelier is adding one other life event to that list: Divorce. With the number of people wanting to untie the note on the rise both on this and the other side of the Atlantic, Jim Halfens saw a gap in the market he couldn’t resist capitalising on. Drawing on a background in marketing as well as a stint at a law firm, he opened Divorce Hote which so far has helped more than 16 couples divorce.

“They arrive on Friday and we give them everything they need to leave Sunday with their divorce papers,” said Jim Halfens, the Dutch entrepreneur who came up with the idea. “Divorces can cost a lot of money and a lot of time. Here, it’s done in three days.”, he told ABC News.

Divorce Hotel is not actually a single enterprise; rather, it is a rolling contract with regular hotels who agree to incorporate Halfens packages in their businesses. Couples stay in separate rooms, and use a suite for mediation talks. For this, the Divorce Hotel charges a flat fee of $3,500 to $10,000, depending on the complexity of a couple’s financial arrangements. Once the couple check out, they need only show the papers to a judge to have their divorce made final.

Sometimes the proceedings don’t exactly go according to plan. Mr. Halfens told the New York Times about a couple who got along so well during the weekend talks that the mediator wondered whether they would reconcile. “They were so positive that they went to the beach together,” he says. Ultimately, though, they pressed on with the divorce. Another time, a couple shared their final night together in the hotel’s honeymoon suite.

The Carlton Ambassador Hotel, The Hague. Photo courtesy of the hotel’s website.

Mr. Halfens has big plans for Divorce Hotel. Having rolled out the program in six luxury hotels in The Netherlands, all but one of the six hotels – The Carlton Ambassador Hotel in The Hague – a carefully guarded secret to protect their reputation, he’s written a book due out next year, and says that in addition to the United States, he is negotiating with hotels and law firms in Britain, Italy and Germany about hosting his program. In the United States, there are even negotiations with two television companies for a reality show.

If this report left you rushing to the Divorce Hotel’s website, keep in mind that only one out of every three couples that apply for the program is accepted. The hotel tries to ensure that both parties want to divorce and are willing to work with a mediator. If the couple is bickering or barely speaking to each other, or if greed or vengeance seems to be a motivation, the couple is rejected.

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