Though "Divorce Hotel" sounds like the title of the Break Up's sequel in which a freshly reconciled/married Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston decide to break up AGAIN the very first night of their Costa Rican honeymoon and have to hilariously spend two weeks tip-toeing around each other in the hotel's Corazón Suite, it's actually the latest concept from a credulously optimistic Dutch entrepreneur, 33-year-old Jim Halfens. At Halfens' Divorce Hotel, feuding couples pay a flat rate to share a suite and have the particulars of their impending divorce ironed out in a more or less civil way by independent lawyers and mediators while they order overpriced milkshakes from room service and scroll through the pay-per-view movie list without ever picking something to watch.
Thus far, according to the New York Times' article on the gimmicky new hotel, 17 couples have tried Halfens' concept, with only one couple leaving not completely "divorce-ready." Halfens wants to take his idea to the States, and is currently negotiating with hotels in several cities, including Los Angeles and New York, as well as with law firms and two television productions companies (Base Productions and A. Smith & Company), both of which would presumably earn the privilege of filming a reality show based on the Divorce Hotel's awkward goings-on.
American divorce attorneys don't seem to think that American couples will embrace Halfens' business model for amicable and intimate divorce negotiations. For one thing, people getting divorced probably don't want to see each other, especially on vacation. High-profile divorce attorney Robert Cohen notes that it also often takes more than the length of a weekend jaunt to sort through the details of a complicated divorce, especially when such a divorce involves significant property or business holdings, stock options, real estate, or offshore accounts. It's hard enough for two people to divvy-up all that treasure, says Cohen, "And the notion they're now going to spend two days with each other at some fancy hotel seems to me not to be a very likely scenario."
Divorce, however, is expensive and the "industry" of officially putting two legally tethered people asunder is estimated to generate anywhere between $50 to $175 billion a year. Individual divorces in the U.S. on average cost between $5,000 and $20,000, though the Times notes that costs can climb rapidly if negotiations involve a child custody dispute. Halfens' hotel offers a potentially cheaper divorce option, charging a flat rate of between $3,000 and $10,000 for a weekend stay. The Divorce Hotel process is also much simpler — all couples have to do after their stay is present a judge with their papers to make the divorce final.
The production companies that Halfens has been negotiating with are pretty amped about the prospect of filming "real people getting real divorces," because nothing looks better to voyeuristic TV audiences than real, glistening tears on real, puffy eyelids. Mickey Stern, co-chief executive for Base Productions, says that the Divorce Hotel could make for the perfect reality concept because "it has all of the human drama of this significant process all condensed down into a very short period of time," almost as if Halfens had planned it that way so that television crews could play with vulnerable couples as if they were figurines in a dollhouse.
Halfens hasn't limited his Divorce Hotel sales pitches merely to reality show producers — he's shooting for some high-profile guests, such as Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, to whom he personally extended a watermarked business card redeemable for one free weekend divorce. He thinks they would be the perfect guests for his Divorce Hotel — rich, seemingly uninterested in one another, and comfortable in front of the camera. No word on whether the Divorce Hotel is also open to singles, but if it is, I'd be willing to bet there have already been some awkward elevator rides.
Quick Getaways, at the Divorce Hotel [NY Times]
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