This weekend's New York Times had a feature on a Netherlands based company that provides a "Divorce Hotel" where couples can spend a weekend mediating their disagreements in the hopes that they can resolve their issues and get a divorce. So far, the company has struck up deals with six hotels in Netherlands, where the staff are advised that the guests participating in the program are to be treated differently than a regular hotel guest. When the couple checks out, they are hopefully ready to show papers to a judge to finalize their divorce. The article does point out, however, that "most breakups are too complicated - or, frankly, too acrimonious - to be worked out in a cozy hotel room somewhere."
According to the story, of the 17 couples who have tried it so far, all but one left "divorce ready", but that doesn't mean they are actually divorced. The purpose of the weekend is to create a settlement agreement that would be ready to present to a judge. While the process is different in each state here in the United States, this approach ignores many of the ancillary required filings to formalize a divorce judgment. The resulting document would likely be similar to the legal document preparation services online these days, they provide you with forms, but it is left to you to get it right. If the form is incorrect, they assume no liability for the problems that result.
In the case of individuals with child custody concerns or complex financial arrangements, a weekend spent in a hotel attempting to mediate your differences will likely lead to more frustrations than answers. Especially where one spouse has been hiding assets or engaging in other spurious behavior, a weekend of mediation may result in a very unfair settlement for the spouse who is unaware of what is truly going on. And while the cost for the program range from $3,500 to $10,000 depending on the complexity assigned to their relationship by the company, for that same price, many couples would benefit from actual legal advice to help them resolve their divorce matters.
Of course, because we live in a voyeuristic society, the article also points out that Base Productions is planning a reality show around participants in a weekend at a divorce hotel. The producers believe the audience could be huge, despite the obvious privacy concerns of letting a television crew film what is probably the most dramatic and sensitive arguments you may ever encounter.
In the end, the hopes are that couples could avoid the length and delay of proceeding with a divorce in the court system, but such an informal process seems fraught with problems and concerns for couples who need legal advice when divorcing.