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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

The real Heartbreak Hotel

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I’m all for making divorce as simple as possible for those who have decided that that there absolutely is no future in a relationship and the best thing for all concerned is for the couple to go their separate ways. That is not to say I want divorce to be easy so that people can go for it on a whim rather than at least trying to work through difficult patches, but where things cannot be repaired, making it as swift and painless as possible is the best option.

It seems they agree with me in the Netherlands where they appear to be pioneering the concept of the divorce hotel. Estranged couples check in for the weekend (I assume in separate rooms or at least one room with twin beds) and over their stay, helpful staff will arrange all the necessary legal documentation for them to end their marriage. They will leave as single people. Whereas usual room service has drinks on tap, 24 hour food and a laundry service, this particular inn has a mediator, team of family lawyers and a fixed fee divorce.

Once they leave, the only additional thing they have to do under Dutch law is show the agreement drawn up to a judge within two weeks to have it ratified.

Is this sending the right message and do you think this would work in the UK? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Of course, the process for getting a divorce in the Netherlands sounds like it has some fundamental differences to the one we have in England and Wales. In its most basic form,  there are simply a series of steps that need to be followed and forms to be filled and filed, and fees paid. A divorce is simply the legal ending of a marriage and in theory, a hotel supplied with the proper paperwork and a credit card machine could help paying guests with the process. In theory, properly trained mediators and experienced family lawyers could help sort issues like division of assets and contact with any children. This would, of course, depend on the complexity of the finances and the willingness of both parties to play nicely. Two days is a very tight window to cover all issues though.

However, our divorce process generally takes on average four to six months and it can take longer – as it seems to these days – if the courts are a bit busy to deal with the paperwork. This doesn’t mean the heartbreak hotel divorce idea wouldn’t work, it would just involve a longer stay.

But, to me, this still begs the question – why would you want to spend any time away with someone you are about to divorce? And you wouldn’t want to ask guests if they have enjoyed their stay, would you?

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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