By Gianna Huesch
Originally a Dutch invention, there are now several ‘divorce hotels’ in the US and they recently popped up for the first time in the UK. And ‘divorce in a day’ services have arrived in Australia as well, with a Brisbane law firm now claiming to be able to achieve the following in a single day: “a Divorce Order, a Property Settlement, Parenting Orders, a Child Support Agreement, new Commercial Agreements for business transfers, Property transfers, a new Will and Power of Attorney and a Prenuptial Agreement for their new relationship, as well as Divorce Coaching along the way!” Sounds attractive—but unfortunately it’s a highly unrealistic option for most separating couples.
Local family law practitioners fear it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and that Australians may be misled by the claims being made by ‘divorce in a day’ services. One family lawyer on the Gold Coast, Cassandra Pullos, has been interviewed on the subject by the legal industry’s newspaper, Lawyers Weekly, saying companies offering such quick-fix solutions are in danger of causing “more harm than good”.
The concept behind a ‘divorce hotel’ is that a couple checks into a hotel and ‘thrashes out’ all the issues around their divorce in a weekend. But as Ms Pullos says, these concepts “all presuppose the two people are already in agreement on all matters”.
It’s tempting to think you can get your whole divorce done and dusted in just a day or two. But the reality is, it’s not even technically possible. To get a divorce you first need to demonstrate you’ve been separated for a minimum of 12 months. Even if you wish to get divorced the day after this period of separation ends, and both parties sign all the required paperwork, a court will still have to review your application to ensure it complies with all the requirements of the Family Law Act. Then there is a ‘cooling off’ period of a month, and four months later you will be divorced on a final basis.
Even putting aside the concerns over the truth about technical requirements, making life-changing, potentially irreversible decisions about your future—property, finances, parenting—is not something that people should be encouraged to be making in a single day. The danger is that people will be forced to make hasty decisions without being given proper time to reflect and digest the potential ramifications.
Divorce is usually a highly emotional time in people’s lives, with parties often grieving the loss of their relationship. To be expected to make quick decisions during this time is dangerous and could lead to major regret, mistakes being made and the nightmare of long-term problems being created. Family lawyers who genuinely want the best for their clients are concerned that ‘solutions’ like these will cause problems down the track because parties have been unable to make properly informed decisions. As Ms Pullos says, “You can’t rush to a decision then have second thoughts six months after the documents are signed.” It’s also hard to get thorough advice on very complex issues in such a short time frame.
The divorce hotel option is not necessarily cheap either, with UK companies offering packages starting at £10,000. Checking into a hotel to get divorced might also be emotionally fraught. As one divorce hotel manager admits:
“We need to be careful during the spring and summer wedding season. Brides are walking through our lobby. I wouldn’t want that to be uncomfortable for the Divorce Hotel couple.”
Part of the attraction and a selling point of these types of services is that they offer a way to clients to avoid court, which is a big draw card given the time and costs involved in litigation. However, there are far better alternatives to these services which have been described as “collaborative law on steroids”. Actual collaborative practice, or other alternatives like arbitration and mediation, are all options which are “respectful, future-and child-focused, problem-solving approaches”, as Ms Pullos notes. These processes are all typically much quicker than going to court. For example, here at Alliance Legal Services, we have achieved complete resolution of issues through collaboration in as little as a three month time-frame.
Would you like assistance with your divorce or wish to know more about collaborative practice and other alternatives to going to court? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct advice, please contact Alliance to arrange a free first conference.