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Family Law Blog

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Divorce in a weekend

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Our European neighbours have arranged quite a few things that many of us in the UK would find to be impossible or even illegal. Drugs, death and now it seems “divorce in a weekend”.

Last year we read and blogged (The Real Heartbreak Hotel) about an initiative in the Netherlands where a divorce hotel was being set up. I now gather the concept is on its way to the US and true to form it’s being taken one step further and being covered in a Reality TV Programme too!

Let’s first of all get one thing clear that even governments get confused about. The word “divorce” just means the legal ending of the marriage. It is a fairly straight forward procedure. It takes about 6 months to be finalised because the Court system is very slow indeed - no other reason. People are often surprised to hear that the legal costs are about £1,200 and that includes fees paid to the Court of £385.

So that’s the divorce. The problem, though, always seems to come over the issues of money and children. That is where the process can be drawn out and too much money can be spent quickly, especially if the case needs to go to a Court. Most cases don’t. The vast majority of cases are resolved by the solicitors negotiating or mediating a settlement outside of the Court room and then just getting the Court to confirm the agreement in a Court Order.

When it comes to settling a financial case it is essential to have access to all the information about the property, assets, pensions and so on, of both parties. I have visions of couples arriving at the divorce hotel with suitcases full of financial statements. Whether they do that, or have already agreed the terms of a financial settlement before they have their weekend away the important thing it knowing all about the finances and people can be very reticent about producing the information especially if they have tried to hide some funds!

In the real world (sorry, do I sound cynical about the whole divorce hotel concept?) a couple who are willing to sit down together and negotiate themselves, or select solicitors to represent them who take a conciliatory approach, will be able to come to an agreement without the added strain of spending a weekend in the same hotel as their soon to be ex.

If the divorce hotel concept is really an attempt to demonstrate that it is possible to have an amicable divorce I am all in favour. If it’s an attempt to suggest that you can somehow short-cut the Court process then I am less impressed.

People who can spend a weekend together in a hotel calmly discussing their divorce are exactly the sort of people who will have a straightforward divorce and financial settlement whichever way they choose to sort it out. The divorce may be “sorted” in a weekend but the Court system will still takes it’s time to catch up – at least it does in the UK, I’m not so sure whether in the Netherlands the process is quicker.

Andrew Woolley
UK Divorce Solicitor

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