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Splitting the tab: Gideon Putnam offers divorce packages

By Lauren Mineau, Saratogian, Originally appeared Sep 4, 2014 in Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> A local hotel usually known as a place to tie the knot will soon be a venue to do just the opposite for some couples.

The Gideon Putnam Resort was chosen as the first United States hotel to offer the services of “DivorceHotel,” a company the specializes in splitting up couples in a relaxed and luxurious setting.

The Netherlands-based company offers weekend getaway and a mediated legal divorce process, all at once. Jim Halfens, the founder of DivorceHotel, said the process is designed to take couples out of their everyday lives and bring them to a relaxed environment and mediate a consensual separation. The process occurs over a weekend, with couples checking in married on Friday and checking out divorced on Sunday afternoon, he said.

Once the former couples leave, paperwork is sent to judge to become official.

“People don’t come to us to save their marriage, they come in knowing they are getting divorced and want a new start,” Halfens said.

DivorceHotel was born after Halfens saw the strain a friend was under going through a lengthy separation that became excessively drawn out and unnecessarily stressful.

“We use a pressure-cooked system. You’re able to start a new life in just one weekend,” he said.

The average rate for the speedy separation is about $7,500 to $12,000 he said, which includes the hotel stay and lawyer’s fees, which he said in a typical divorce can quickly become more expensive than that.

The business grew quickly within three years and he uses six hotels in the Netherlands was looking for a place to land in the United States. Halfens got in touch with a local divorce mediator, Michele Martin, who convinced Halfens that the Spa City was the perfect place for DivorceHotel’s U.S. debut.

“It doesn’t have to be a horrible process,” she said.

Martin expects clients to come up from New York City and around the state and expects the services to begin by the end of the month. Halfens said in the Netherlands, they see all types of people from “yuppies” to senior citizens.

“We have had some 85 and older couples,” Halfens said.

DivorceHotel also has a reality television show, which guests can chose to participate in, though many chose to privately cut ties.

Rob Sgarlata, director of sales and marketing at the Gideon Putnam, said the service approached them about two weeks ago.

“We see them the same as any of our other guests, they’re here for a purpose but also to relax,” he said.

Sgarlata said the hotel offers all the amenities one could need after a tough session dividing assets or declaring custody.

“We have a spa, mineral baths and anything someone could need to rejuvenate, our environment lends itself to that,” he said.

But one local attorney lends caution to the service. Mario Cometti, a partner at Tully Rinckey in Albany, said the mediation process can be complicated and can take a lot of preparation, review and discussion.

“It’s best if both sides know what’s best going into it, if you’re starting at square one at the start of the weekend, it may not work, I’d be surprised if this actually results in divorces,” Cometti said, “Though ending the divorce in a nice resort certainly can’t hurt.”

But the folks at DivorceHotel know their unique process may not be for everyone, but it may be a perfect solution for those who want to get things done quickly and move on.

“It will work for a lot of people, and has, but it’s not for everyone. All elements need to be perfect. People have to come to us,” Halfens said.