Could ‘divorce hotel’ idea take off in UK? — ‘Er, no,’ says family law solicitor

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By Judge John Hack on

Leading English divorce specialist slams mini-break mediation venture, describing it as unworkable and potentially dangerous


A US hotel has launched the novel combination of a luxury weekend getaway with a divorce mediation service — but the mix would never work on this side of the Atlantic, argues a top English divorce lawyer.

The Gideon Putnam Resort in the posh upstate New York town of Saratoga Springs has recently teamed with Dutch-based company DivorceHotel to provide a unique legal twist to the traditional weekend getaway.

For $5,000 (about £3,000) warring couples at the end of their relationship tethers can enjoy the luxurious Roosevelt Spa (pictured below) and first-class dining facilities — along with their own personal mediator so they reach an amicable separation.

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According to DivorceHotel’s website, its mediators will help “in a professional, fast and affordable way to support you in the process of getting a divorce”.

The latest spin on untying the marriage knot is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Jim Halfens. The separation guru from the low countries comments on the website:

“We see your separation not just as the end of your marriage but as also as a beginning of a new stage in your life.”

Ironically, the Saratoga resort is renowned for its luxury wedding packages — but nonetheless it has clearly embraced Halfens’s ethos. So much so the nod has been given to film some of the mediations as part of reality TV series.

The question is will mediators of England and Wales embrace the concept — or does spending a weekend with an angry couple in a Travelodge off the M25 reduce the appeal?

Not a chance, maintains Marilyn Stowe, senior partner of Leeds-based solicitors’ firm Stowe Family Law, and one of England’s ubiquitous divorce practitioners. “Offering a quickie divorce — like an upmarket concierge service at a five star hotel — could not work in practice,” Stowe told Legal Cheek.“There is absolutely no way a settlement can be worked out within the 48-hour time frame to start with.”

She continued:

Secondly, I’m assuming most of these guests will be staying — in their separate rooms, of course — over a weekend, so officialdom will be closed. Thirdly, what if there are kids?

Divorce isn’t an overly complicated process until the issues of children and finances need unravelling. Then you need a lawyer, not room service.”