Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
A flat fee divorce package that includes a weekend stay at a luxury hotel, completed papers, and a television appearance - is this the practice of law or reality television?
Apparently it's both.
The idea was created by Dutch entrepreneur, Jim Halfens, who has been selling his Divorce Hotel package to soon-to-be divorcees in the Netherlands. And now he wants to sell it in the U.S.
"They arrive on Friday and we give them everything they need to leave Sunday with their divorce papers. Divorces can cost a lot of money and a lot of time. Here, it's done in three days," Halfens told ABC News.
Divorces in the U.S. can cost from $5,000 to $20,000, Randall M. Kessler, family law section chairman of the American Bar Association, told The New York Times. Costs can increase depending on the complexity of the couple's finances and the assets involved. And fees often exceed $100,000 for each party when child custody is at issue.
That can make the Divorce Hotel's flat fee of $3,500 to $10,000 look appealing, especially with all its perks. Couples have access to lawyers, mediators, and psychologists. They stay in separate rooms and use a suite for mediation. Plus they would avoid the backlog of U.S. courts.
Halfens is talking with hotels and law firms in several US cities, including New York and Los Angeles. And he has been negotiating with production companies to make Divorce Hotel guests part of a reality show.
So how does a solo practitioner compete with a Divorce Hotel?
The reality is that the Divorce Hotel is not a viable option for most people. Most divorces are not that easy. And few estranged couples want to stay in the same hotel or speak to each other.
Robert S. Cohen, a divorce attorney, told The New York Times that proceedings are highly emotional. And the Divorce Hotel is not likely to work when the case involves property, business holdings, stock options, or offshore accounts.
Tracing and sorting those assets takes time. That is especially true when someone has hidden money, undervalued assets, or committed fraud, as stated by Jason Marks, a divorce lawyer in Miami.
What we can learn from Halfens is the importance of finding a unique way to market our legal services. His idea may seem far-fetched. But people remember it and are checking in.
[Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.]