American marriage has become a business opportunity Posted on:5/30/2012
|The sorry state of the American marriage has become a business opportunity for Jim Halfens, 33 year old entrepreneur from the Netherlands who plans to open a hotel called Divorce Hotel where married couples can check in on a Friday and check out on Sunday with divorce papers in hand. |
Mr. Halfens came up with the idea after watching a friend go through a painful divorce. The divorce process which went on for five months (not long by US standards) left his friend completely devastated. Mr. Halfens felt there has to be another way of going about the process. Using his marketing background and the lessons he learnt while he worked at a law firm for a short while, he started Divorce Hotel. While one hotel is functional, he has entered into agreements with six high end hotels in the Netherlands but most of them are reluctant to disclose their association with the Divorce Hotel.
This concept may sound strange but is actually running successfully in the Netherlands. Out of the 17 couples who have availed of the service, all but one left divorce ready. Mr. Halfens is now negotiating with various hotels across the United States, Britain, Italy and Germany to start this concept. He is also in the process of starting reality TV show wherein consenting couples will be filmed the entire time they are in the hotel. The element of human drama involved in a divorce will make it a great reality show. Celebrity divorce attorney Robert S. Cohen wishes he'd thought of the concept. According to Mr. Halfens, the concept will work if the couple are still on talking terms but will not be of much use in complex cases involving property and financial disputes.
Attorney Cohen feels that it is virtually impossible for couples who are on the verge of splitting spending a weekend together because most couples seeking a divorce do not want to see their spouse ever again. An attorney like Mr. Cohen knows that divorce is a big business in the United States with the industry estimated to cost between $50 billion and $175 billion. Attorneys are only a small part of the divorce industry. Over a million people file for divorce every year in the United States alone. The cost of a divorce in the United States can range from $5000 to $20,000 depending on the issues in dispute. Child custody disputes can increase the cost of a divorce to over $100,000.
Once a couple check in, both spouses are allotted separate rooms. There is a suite for mediation. The hotel staff know the purpose of the stay and avoid the general formalities like "have a great weekend" or "enjoy your stay". Before a couple can use the hotel, Mr. Halfens evaluates their chances of success. All this can set you back by $3500 to $10,000 depending on the complexity of your case. After checking out of the hotel, the couple can show the papers to judge who will then pass the final decree. Mr. Halfens is negotiating with attorneys and hotels across the United States.
A 44 year old Dutch computer consultant and his wife checked into the Divorce Hotel last September. Both had been through divorce before. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said he had lost almost $30,000 on attorney fees and court costs. The entire process lasted over an year. He and his second wife now want to end their marriage on friendly terms and decided to use the Divorce Hotel. The couple are delighted with their experience and happy about the result. According to Mr. Halfens one couple spend their last night in the honeymoon suite while the mediator in another case wondered if the couple would reconcile but they pressed on with the divorce.
Attorney Cohen feels that the backlog of cases before the court has resulted in people moving towards arbitration and mediation. As such the concept of Divorce Hotel will definitely work especially in those cases where there is much dispute about property, finance or child custody. Miami divorce attorney Jason Marks says that complex cases cannot be resolved through Divorce Hotel. The Divorce Hotel does not accept every couple who apply. According to Mr. Halfens, only one in three couples who apply get accepted. One of the criteria for selection is that the couple must be willing to work with a mediator. Mr. Halfens has invited Hollywood stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to use the Divorce Hotel but they haven't responded to his invitation.