There have been several articles recently about a “new” approach to divorce – The Divorce Hotel. Originating in the Netherlands, it recently expanded to New York. The concept is straightforward: a married couple checks into a hotel on Friday evening (separate accommodations), meets with a mediator, independent attorneys and a financial professional over the next two days, and checks out on Sunday with a binding divorce agreement. The proponents acknowledge that the process is not for everyone, particularly couples who are highly contentious (or not speaking to each other), have exceptionally complex financial estates, or have a history of deceit (e.g., hiding assets). But for couples who remain civil and whose financial estates are not overly complex, the process is efficient, cost effective, and respectful.
Some traditional family lawyers scoff at this “new” approach — but it’s really not a new idea at all. Divorcing couples have been taking similar paths for many, many years. And an increasing number of couples who complete a Texas online divorce often use variations of the Divorce Hotel to keep the process civil and efficient.
Many couples, for example, use the kitchen table as the setting to work out the details of their agreement. Called a “kitchen table divorce,” these couples find that it offers a relatively neutral, informal setting (with ready access to a cup of coffee) that encourages cooperation rather than contention. In a variation of this approach, one couple met every Saturday for breakfast at a restaurant for several weeks to work out their divorce agreement. For them, it was a working breakfast, much like they might have with a colleague, and the week’s break between each conversation gave each time to think about what they had tentatively decided the week before. Another couple did something similar, although the table they used was in the wife’s parent’s kitchen. With her parents’ help, they reached a reasonable and workable agreement over the course of a weekend – while affirming their ongoing support for one another. Whether completed in one kitchen table session or multiple sessions, the intent is to find an informal setting that prevents escalating tensions, encourages a relaxed pace, and keeps the couple, rather than third parties, in control.
Other couples choose a setting similar to the Divorce Hotel concept. One divorcing mother and father, for example, booked a week’s vacation in separate accommodations at a beach resort that they had visited with their children every summer for many years. Their children, teens and adults, accompanied them. In between their usual activities, such as sailing and fishing, the parents talked through the details of their divorce and discussed parenting plan options with their children. Although this couple used a lawyer to write their agreements into a divorce decree, they did all the work; the lawyer functioned solely as a scribe, translating their plan into legal language. This approach would not work for every family, particularly the participation of the children, but in this instance the family felt proud and pleased with the outcome. Looking back, they felt that the opportunity to fish and swim and sail together was the magic to their success. The activities provided enjoyable distractions when the issues were tough and a way to reaffirm their positive connections to one another even in the midst of the parents’ breakup.