Check in to a divorce hotel

Amsterdam – “A marriage can be finished awfully quickly,” Brigitte Bardot once said, “it’s the divorce that robs you of time.” But the Dutchman who opened a “divorce hotel” in the Netherlands says that doesn’t have to be the case.

Last spring, Jim Halfens (32) opened a hotel which offers weekend package deals for dissolving marriages.

So far, 10 couples have taken up the offer and Halfens says interest is growing.

“We’ve created the opportunity to not just get a divorce right legally speaking but also quickly, without missing out on work and in a worthy manner,” says Halfens.

“Some people will want to return.” Just in case the ex-couple want to seal the deal with a drink, Halfens has champagne on ice as well.

It’s the personnel on hand that make the hotel special: a notary public, a lawyer for each of the parties and a psychologist are at the hotel’s disposal to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

An estate agent’s services can also be called upon to take care of dealing with any property issues.

If needed, the hotel can also organise childcare. The entire package costs $3 500 (R25 000) including accommodation and legal fees for the divorce, which is issued later.

“Of course this is not a solution for complicated arguments over access rights to children or assets,” says Halfens.

But neither is it for people who change partners as often as they change their clothes like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The Hollywood legend has married eight times and is once reputed to have said that she “never hated a man so much that I would give him back his diamonds”.

The divorce hotel is more suited to “sensible couples for whom we can take care of the running around and who want to save time,” according to Halfens who has studied public relations and once worked in the event management business.

“Our clients are mainly people who have very busy careers like doctors. We offer them a proper chance to get a fast divorce and not a place to continue their War of the Roses and break the furniture.”

Halfens is the commercial manager of the company Juridische Snelweg (Legal Fast Track), a group of lawyers who offer their services at fair prices.

“Among our circle of acquaintances we have all experienced divorces that appeared to be easy matters but actually took years to complete,” he says.

“Every third marriage ends in divorce in the Netherlands. In many cases it’s a tortuous experience because it’s a complicated process. We offer an alternative to that.”

The divorce weekend package bears no resemblance to a health spa for unhappy couples and is more like a tightly organised conference.

The programme begins right after the 8am breakfast on Saturday and can continue with just small pauses until late into the evening on Sunday.

Organisational and financial issues are cleared up first while at the end there’s psychological coaching to help deal with the new state of affairs.

The hotel does not have a permanent address because Halfens and his partners are anxious to avoid the attention of religious fanatics or paparazzi on the hunt for divorce photos.

“We find out first if a hotel divorce is the right path to go down and then we settle on an establishment with whom we have a contract in the relevant city.”

Halfens says he has received plenty of interest from abroad.

“We’ve had enquiries from the US, from Brazil and other European countries. Unfortunately foreigners cannot obtain a valid divorce here but we are trying to find partners in Germany, for example, with whom we can work with.”

Halfens is not married himself. He says that single people never have to worry about getting a divorce.
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