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There's a small hotel, with a divorce lawyer, concl.

In our last post, we started talking about an innovative business in the Netherlands. The company offers divorce mediation services for couples. Nothing new, certainly -- except that couples meet at four- or five-star hotels for three days to work out the settlement.

It isn't as easy as checking in to Chicago's Drake Hotel and hitting the mini-bar, though. Couples must first complete a lengthy questionnaire.

If their answers indicate the couple can resolve their differences over just a couple of days, they choose one of the company's partner hotels. (No, there isn't an entire hotel devoted to divorcing couples.) For three days, a mediator helps the couple come to agreement; notaries, psychologists and any other appropriate specialists are available, as well.

Couples work from checklists they've prepared ahead of time. One mediator who has worked with the company emphasizes that the three days are not spent ordering room service, visiting the spa or raiding the mini-bar. It's a lot of work, but, at the end of their stay, the couple is done.

The mediator, who is also a lawyer, guesses that a really contentious divorce can cost as much as 50,000 Euros, or about $70,000, in Holland. The Divorce Hotel costs clients about $3,500 -- and that includes the hotel rooms.

The business is beginning to catch on. The owner's expansion plans include finding hotels and mediators in other countries to partner with. Divorce laws differ from country to country, so his Dutch mediators can't really cross borders.

The owner scowls at the wags dubbing his hotels "Heartbreak Hotels." He says that's exactly the wrong way to think about it. People go there to get on with their lives, he says, to move forward more quickly than a traditional divorce would allow.

Source: PRI's The World, "Breaking Up at the Divorce Hotel in Holland," Clark Boyd, Sept. 12, 2011

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