Heartbreak Hotel promises happy endings to bad marriages

30 April 2017 - 02:00 By Elizabeth Sleith
The Divorce Hotel could have the solution for couples such as Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in 'The Break-Up'.
The Divorce Hotel could have the solution for couples such as Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in 'The Break-Up'.
Image: Supplied

Fancy spending a wonderful weekend in a luxury hotel with your partner, just to get divorced? You can do that in a Divorce Hotel, and the brand has just opened its first UK hotel in York.

It offers a "positive way" to end a marriage and make a new start, but it only accepts guests who are still on speaking terms, presumably to avoid damage to the lamps and ornaments.

The hotel claims to give couples who want to split a neutral space to negotiate the details in a five-star, relaxed environment, away from the pressures or distractions of family and friends.

Unsurprisingly they check in to separate rooms for a weekend, during which they work with a mediator and a lawyer to negotiate the terms of the divorce. By the end of it the paperwork should be ready to be sent to the courts.

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With almost half of British marriages ending in divorce the hotel may be a sign of the times, but it has been a long time coming. Further north in Scotland, Gretna Green - the first village travellers came to after crossing the border from England - became famous as the place to which to elope.

Marriage laws had been tightened in England in 1754, but not in Scotland, where quick legal services were easy. People still go there to get married, for the fun of it.

A weekend stay at the Divorce Hotel isn't exactly cheap at between £6,000 and £10,000 (about R100,000 to R170,000), depending on how complex the divorce is.

The founder of the Divorce Hotel is David Leckie, a trained mediator and counsellor. The company is based in the Netherlands, where it started five years ago, and where it now runs six hotels and has helped hundreds of couples untie the knot. It also has a hotel in New York State, with more planned in Miami and Los Angeles.

After its success in the US, Leckie took the concept to Britain. "This is really good for people who want to divorce efficiently, effectively and non-acrimoniously," he told The Sun in the UK.

"Divorce can turn the most loving relationship into the most hurtful.

"If couples want to use the Divorce Hotel they obviously can't be wanting to throw furniture at each other," he said. "Both have got to want a positive outcome for each other - people have got to want to move on in an amicable fashion."

The hotel's website says: "We will never treat you as a client but rather as a VIP guest. Allow us to serve you, and to support you, in settling your divorce in as positive a way as possible."

Company CEO Jim Halfens told the Daily Mail: "If you ask most former couples what the worst thing was about their divorce, they will tell you 'the money'. They never know how much it is going to cost.

"The end of a marriage might be negative, but from the moment couples come to us, we only focus on the positives and the future."

The hotel screens guests before accepting a booking: they have to do an online test to see if they are suitable, including answering 100 questions.

When all is done and dusted, the hotel offers the couple a final meal as husband and wife, aimed at providing closure. But if the luxury weekend leads to a reconciliation, there is no refund.

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