For some people, filing for divorce makes them want to get out of town—literally. The destination divorce, once a racy option taken by celebrities and divorce “pioneers,” is resurfacing again, but as a way to help couples escape divisive influences in their normal lives and reach an agreement in a setting more conducive to cooperative mediation.
I spoke to Jim Halfens, who founded the destination mediation company, Divorce Hotel, for an article for QZ.com. As Halfens explained, sometimes people need to get away from the well-meaning but wrong-headed advice of friends and family to figure out what they want to do.
In the past, before no-fault divorce law, if you wanted to end your marriage but your spouse was basically a decent person, you had two options: 1) You could travel to a city or country that had some version of no-fault divorce. Or, 2) You could lie, claiming in court, under oath, before witnesses, that this person you’d married had turned abusive, was having an affair, couldn't have “intimate relations” or was a criminal.
Some people went to great lengths to prevaricate their way out of unhappy marriages. A couple might hire a women to pose as mistresses to help them fabricate an acceptable cause for divorce. The wife could “discover” her husband frolicking with a half-dressed woman, then testify in court about what she’d seen, as Ilyon Woo has written about in The Great Divorce.
Legal scholars feared that the charade of lying spouses was making a mockery of the courts. Others pointed out that having to detail instances of wrong-doing in public, before witness, trapped women in violent marriages. These reasons, along with others, led to the introduction of no-fault divorce.
Today, every state has a version of no-fault, a reality that has helped preserve the integrity of individuals facing divorce, and of our family court system. You don’t need to travel to get a divorce . . . but purveyors of tropical divorce getaways and some mediators insist you might reach a better agreement under the swaying palm trees of someplace else.
* A version of this article first appeared on Wendy Paris's website, wendyparis.com.
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocated for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.