Article written by Nardine Collier
Family Lawyer Cairns & Alice Springs

I thought this was an interesting idea…

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article (12/9/18) entitled “Divorce hotels are coming to Australia”. That article states:

The premise is simple: couples check in to a hotel in two separate rooms for two nights, where they undergo mediation processes behind closed doors and away from outside responsibilities.

The idea is that, over the course of a 48-hour hotel stay, all divorce arrangements can be made.”

A couple were quoted as saying that it worked for them as it means they could get away from commitments and day to day obligations (such as children, they said! Ha ha) and really focus on their ‘divorce’ (by which, they meant, their property settlement and possibly arrangements for children.)

“The CEO of DivorceHotel, Jim Halfens developed the idea in the Netherlands around seven years ago and the company is now operating in the US and the UK, with an Australian expansion planned for 2019.

His idea involves providing all the professional support a couple need to arrange their divorce (“lawyer, mediator, financial advisor, maybe therapist”) all under the same roof at the same time.”

The article is quick to point out that this idea wouldn’t suit everyone and would only work if couples were amicable.

It’s definitely an interesting idea and I can see how it could be adapted to be more affordable. Much as I’d love my client to pay for me to stay at a swanky hotel for 2 nights, that might be out of the reach of many; and really, not necessary.

The idea of all the necessary players, such as the mediator, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, etc getting together in one place is not new. “Collaborative law” is a concept where the parties do just that. Collaborative law in its pure form has other rules and restrictions which doesn’t appeal to me, but the idea of everyone being accessible AND trying to get things done in a focused time-limited process, is a great idea.

How about this:  DIVORCE DAY (AKA “D-Day”)

  • Choose a family law mediator.
  • Both engage lawyers for this process
  • Have the mediator and the lawyers negotiate and agree a schedule of dates – i.e. the date by which all documents have to be exchanged by, valuations obtained, etc, so that by the time D-Day rolls around you both know what your assets and liabilities are and have received advice as to what is a just and equitable outcome.
  • Arrange any other participants such as accountants, financial planners, mortgage broker, etc.
  • Book a neutral venue – the Boland Centre in Cairns is excellent.
  • Set aside the day and make appropriate arrangements.

You might both agree that you will not leave the venue until the matter is finalised. In which case…maybe you will need that room after all?

Nardine Collier is a Nationally Accredited mediator and has been mediating family law disputes for 20 years. She is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, a Family Law Arbitrator, a panel mediator for various Australia wide organisations and for courts and tribunals, and regularly mediates at legal aid conferences in family law, in Cairns and the Northern Territory. She is also the Cairns representative of the Queensland Chapter of the Resolution Institute of Australia.