Some couples may have their wedding cake and eat it too, but that’s not the case in the latest incarnation of the divorce game. As many of us know first-hand, divorce is or can be very stressful, and very upsetting, and very, very expensive. In fact, according to the New York Times, the divorce industry in the US alone racks up from $50 billion (that’s billion with a B) to $175 billion a year, depending on what costs are included.
Now that is a lot of money! Enter an entrepreneurial Dutchman with a bright idea - why not make getting a divorce quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive, and even- if you can believe this- fun?
33-years-old and single, Jim Halfens has developed the Halfen’s Divorce Hotel brand in the Netherlands. He’s started with six- locations, he doesn’t own or build any of the six hotels, but like any clever businessman would, he rents luxurious spaces in six boutique hotels that aren’t full on weekends.
There unhappily married couples can check out of their marriages with a weekend package that includes lawyers, mediators, psychologists, plus pools, 4-star restaurants and elegant accommodations — with separate bedrooms, of course. Although some of the hotels he works with don’t want to be identified, Halfens was photographed by the Times at the ritzy Carlton Ambassador in The Hague. And he is currently seeking locations in New York and LA, as well as Britain, Italy and Germany, and eventually we assume, anywhere else couples get divorced.
According to Halfens, not just any couple can work out their differences at the hotel. In fact, only one-in-three couples who apply for his program is accepted. His people try to ascertain whether both parties really want a divorce, and whether they will work with a mediator. If a couple is bickering or barely speaking, or if greed or vengeance seems to be the motivation, the couple is rejected.
According to one attorney, child custody battles and cases involving complex financial arrangements, such as self-owned businesses, off-shore accounts, stock options, and more tend to be the costliest, with fees reaching $100,000 for both husband and wife. Also, if there are children involved, or enormous assets involved, and the case’s complexity, the Divorce Hotel solution might not be feasible.
In case you were wondering, the Divorce Hotel package typically costs between $2,500 and $10,000. This certainly sounds better than fighting for years, or the lawyers winding up with all the money.
“They arrive on Friday, and we give them everything they need to leave Sunday with their divorce papers,” said Halfens. “Divorces can cost a lot of money and a lot of time. Here, it’s done in three days.” And once a couple checks out, they only need to show their papers to a judge to make the divorce final.
Soon Halfens plans to bring Divorce Hotel to the U.S., where it is said one in two marriages ends in divorce. In fact, in 2009 alone, more than 1.2 million people filed for the legal right to never see that sob again.
“People are very interested because what we’re doing is so unique,” Halfens said, explaining how divorces in the U.S. can stretch over months and even years. “At first, you’re very angry with each other but there’s one moment when you say, ‘Let’s do this in a positive way.’ That’s when you come to us and we’ll do it fast.”
In a daring turn, Halfens invited Demi Moore and Aston Kutcher, who split in November, to be Divorce Hotel’s first stateside guests. Though apparently the pair has not yet responded to the offer, this writer can think of quite a few other superstars who might be up for a good deal, and a little publicity, too. Though Halfens insists that privacy is of the upmost importance to the chain, you know those sneaky paparazzi, right?
Although the name Divorce Hotel might suggest a not-very-happy place, Halfens said the reality is sometimes quite the opposite. “We once had a guy that said, ‘I want a bottle of champagne,’ and did a toast to his wife,” Halfens said. “He said, ‘I had a wonderful time with you, and I wish you a nice future. Please wish for me a nice future as well.’”
But wait, there’s more, much more! Halfens has said he hopes to launch a reality TV show about Divorce Hotel in the fall. He already has two productions companies as suitors, with more to follow in other countries, most likely. And just think, with great characters, intriguing situations, and plenty of conflict, which this show will certainly have, it could be a hit.
“It’s time to show people this is possible,” Halfens said. “And obviously it would be a great television show.”
For more on Halfens Divorce Hotel, check out http://www.divorcehotel.com