As the New Year is underway and the weather takes a turn, many of us start planning our holiday for the year. A cruise? A golden sandy beach? A divorce hotel?
The idea of a ‘divorce hotel’ was developed in the Netherlands by Dutch firm DivorceHotel International. It has already opened hotels in Holland and the US and the company expanded by launching their first hotel in Britain last year.
The emphasis is on splitting up in a positive way, allowing couples to make a fresh start and begin the next phase of their lives. It is important, say DivorceHotel, that divorcing parties are “both able to wish each other a positive and bright new future after divorce”. That is clearly not an approach that will work for everyone.
The concept aims to resolve the issues of those divorcing over the course of a weekend. Couples check into the hotel, in separate rooms and meet over the weekend to discuss the way in which they will divide matrimonial assets and agree arrangements for any children. The cost is between £6,000 to £10,000 and the matter is still not finalised even if agreement can be reached. It will actually be several months later. If no divorce proceedings have been issued, this will need to be done and the divorce process takes approximately 6 months to conclude. A Consent Order will need to be drafted, signed and sent to the Court for review by a Judge. If the Judge deems the agreement to be unfair, it won’t approve it, thus not being made a binding Court Order.
So, is placing pressure on couples to agree a settlement within 48 hours really going to achieve the best result for the couple and their families? Perhaps for some couples. However, it will inevitably lead to problems for others and the solution is not the quick fix that they may have hoped for. The divorcing couple may not stick to the agreements they have made if done hastily and in a last ditch attempt to settle matters. An added layer of pressure is placed on them when they think about how much they have paid for the weekend. They are unlikely going to want to come away and have to instruct Solicitors to go through the process again.
“This concept misses the point in my view”, comments Partner Ed Rawlins, an experienced family Solicitor and qualified Mediator who has been advising on such issues for over 20 years. “The breakdown of a relationship is never easy and no two are the same. A one-size-fits-all service short-changes everyone”.
The Family Law team at Wilson Browne believe their tried and tested approach is far better for clients. The team’s reputation for excellence in client service has seen it recognised in the Legal 500, an independently researched survey of the best law firms in particular areas of the law. Wilson Browne’s team are the only Family Law team in Northamptonshire to have gained this accolade.
“We listen”, says Ed Rawlins. “How can you possibly advise a client if you only speak to them over the course of a weekend? We take the time to get to know our clients and what they want – only then can you give practical advice on what might be reasonable and how to achieve that”.
The Office for National Statistics’ report on divorce rates in 2016 identifies that in 2016, the number of divorces among opposite-sex couples in England and Wales increased by 5.8% compared with 2015, with the number of divorces being highest among men and women aged 45 to 49.
“Arguably, the older you are when you divorce the more complicated the financial issues can be” suggests Ed. “Once you have children and pensions to take account of, the range of outcomes is far wider and it is important that couples have the time to consider those and explore all possibilities so that everyone can be properly provided for”.
“Call centres and ‘drive-thru’ divorce services may appeal to some”, remarks Ed, “but our clients tell us they value the personal service, the time and the support they receive – that’s what we think is important and what we intend to continue to offer”.