Jim Halfens is a Dutch visionary. The Netherlands based entrepreneur has come up with an innovative idea for handling divorce around the world – a concept he’s dubbed THE DIVORCE HOTEL. Launched in 2011 and dismissed as a “gimmick” by some power players in the industry, Mr Halfens has shown that his trademarked idea has staying power and gravitas three years later as more and more people around the world check into his hotel to resolve their marital break ups. But that is not all. He also has a reality show in the works which will air in America very soon. Our international correspondent Marion TD Lewis caught up with Mr Halfens at the Jardin Des Tuilleries in Paris. Mr Halfens was on his way to Ibiza but the two managed to carve out an hour to discuss Divorce in the Netherlands and beyond. Below is an excerpt from the interview which was adapted by our editorial director, Jeannie Goldstein:
We are always on the look out for what we call “divorce success stories” and when we heard about the Divorce Hotel it sounded like a superbe concept. Tell us more about it
Well, what I came to realize a few years ago is that the problems with divorce are the same all over the world. That is why I created this international concept with the Divorce Hotel. There are two basic problems with the traditional model: Cost and time – when does it start? When does it end? Litigants are at th mercy of lawyers and courts and other divorce professionals. These people are in charge of the divorce. And of course, it may start off positive. But the more time it takes, the more difficult things become. I saw this as a major factor. I felt that the process needed to be faster. Instead of taking years to resolve a divorce, I thought it could be done in a weekend. So that is how the Divorce Hotel was started. Couples come for the weekend and they are put in a pressure cooker for the weekend. There are no outside influences. Sometimes they don’t even have a cell phone. And they sit and resolve the divorce themselves with the help of mediators. It is a very intensive program where we take the parties out of their comfort zone and isolate them; we tell them you started this together (alone) and you will end it the same way. Nobody wants to be emotionally wrecked by this experience so we are very careful not to allow negative influences to creep in.
Where exactly is the hotel located? Is it in the Netherlands?
In Holland we have six hôtels that we work with. There is no one location. We have a very strict criteria in selecting the hôtels.
You have said you are on your way to Ibiza for the Divorce Hotel there. Is there a huge divorce market in Ibiza?
Not specifically. I was invited there and we are always searching for new places for the Divorce Hotel. We are more interested in the US market. We should be coming to the US soon. That is 99 percent certain. That is a very huge market.
Typically what is the price of admission to the Divorce Hotel?
It depends on the country. My belief is that it should always be affordable. In the Netherlands for example, the average is between 4000 – 5000 euros.
One New York lawyer described the Divorce Hotel as a “good gimmick.” How do you respond to that?
People who are afraid of us call us a gimmick. The success of this program would obviously threaten traditional lawyers. Don’t get me wrong there are lot of fantastic divorce lawyers. But I am critical about the process and procedures and the amount of time and money it takes for traditional divorces. For me, the real gimmick is paying 40,000 dollars for a divorce.
Do you have any statistics about the success rate of this approach?
We have a success rate of about 95 percent. This is because we have a very thorough pre-qualification process. The mediators decide who can even come to the hotel. So the candidates are carefully selected and thus the success rate is high.
Typically what happens to the other 5 percent?
They go to the traditional divorce. We have a major law firm here in the Netherlands that we work with. We always tell people that their fate is in their own hands. It is in their best interest to try to work things out.
You have a reality show in the works, is that correct?
Yes. Well it is already airing in the Netherlands. We were voted the Best Viewed Primetime Show in the Netherlands. But I am working with some US producers – of Hell’s Kitchen fame – to produce the American version. They are my partners and we have already filmed a few episodes.
Where will the US version be filmed?
I cannot say but it will be exciting
What is your selection criteria for the show?
They have to be interesting to watch.
There is a lawyer in NJ who was interviewed in Divorce Saloon recently who is doing a divorce reality show with Bravo. How do you think your show will stack up especially for an American audience?
That show is not comparable to ours. The whole philosophy of Divorce Hotel is different. It is built on more than just mediation. We put the couple through a pressure cooker for a weekend. It is really intense and just very different.
What if any sage advice can you give prospective guests at the Divorce hotel?
In order to “untie the knot” you have to remember it is about give and take. You can’t just “take” you have to also “give.”
What drives you?
I just believe that there is a better more positive way to end a marriage; people don’t have to fight for 3 years and lose so much money in the process. I would like to decrease the amount of combative divorces in the world. This for me is a driver.
Jim Halfens Bio
Jim Halfens, CEO of DivorceHotel is a divorce specialist whose innovative concept spread around the world like a wild fire. In his hotels couples separate over a weekend, not years. It’s Jims personal mission to make divorce procedures less complicated, less painful, more positive and cost effective. He does weekly talk shows on the Radio and TV and is frequently interviewed for magazines and newspapers. Besides running his business with enthusiastic partners, he is writing a new book as we speak, working on an original DivorceHotel TV series with a major US network and writes divorce blogs during his spare time.
Interview by Marion TD Lewis
Adapted by Jeannie Goldstein