Divorce Café

Purpose: the Scheidingscafé (Divorce Café) was set up to give people a place where they can ask questions about divorce, about the process and the route along the way – a place where they can form a picture of what they should expect when facing a divorce.

"We want to break through all the taboos. We want people to start talking to one another about divorce, even if they are not yet divorced but have reached an impasse in their relationship or are thinking about getting a divorce."

Professionals give advice and share their experiences. The lawyer Petra Slingenberg (Delissen Martens advocaten) and psychologist Bert Ruitenbeek (Leeuwenhart), both acting as mediators, talk to everyone that has a question about divorce. It can be a question about your own divorce, the divorce of a friend or colleague or the divorce of your child. It can also be a question about preventing a divorce.

According to Petra Slingenberg, it is important to have good assistance during the process and to start this early on. Preferably by sitting down together around the table. "Good communication is the most difficult thing for most parents to do following a divorce." Petra Slingenberg teaches people to make a distinction between their different roles and the behaviour that is expressed in each of them. Often these roles get mixed up. The partners (husband and wife) are angry with each other, have hurt one another and are arguing. But is the same true with respect to the parents? Is an adulterous husband also automatically a bad father? This even goes further if we also involve the circle of family, friends and work. Is an adulterous father also a bad friend? Petra makes a distinction and tries to explain that there are different roles. "Become aware of them and it will make communicating a lot easier." 

It is also important to go through the process in the correct order. When all is said and done, the problem in the relationship seldom boils down to the behaviour of the other partner alone; no, it arises in the interplay between the respective behaviour of both partners. That is why Bert and Petra try to provide insight into the idea that it is useful for each partner to reflect the part he or she has played in the relationship’s problem. "This is not a matter of identifying yourself directly as the guilty party. Not at all, but it is good to know that only you have direct influence over your own behaviour and that you only have indirect influence on the behaviour of your partner. If you change your behaviour, the other party will also change." During the mediation this is quickly experienced. If you are no longer talking to each other, it is very difficult to achieve such a breakthrough.

One in six divorces runs into problems. We have some 32,000 divorces a year in the Netherlands. Nearly 6 in 10 couples seeking divorce have children. Each year, it is estimated (by the CBS) that approximately 60,000 children are involved in divorces, if we count co-habiting couples along with married people. The former group has twice the number of split-ups that married people do. So each year approximately 100,000 couples end their relationship. It is such a common occurrence that we cannot really avoid facing it.

Petra Slingenberg and Bert Ruitenbeek have created the Scheidingscafé as a place where this subject can be discussed openly and put on the agenda of everyone that is directly or indirectly involved in a problem involving divorce. They are convinced that most people are able, given proper help, to make the process of divorce less painful and destructive than currently is often the case. "If you know where you are going, you are often better able to put your own interests to the side and place the interests of your children front and centre. If you know why you are doing it and understand that the feelings you have about your partner, as negative as they might be, can be separated from your role as a parent, then it is possible to get communication back on track. This helps a divorce to go more smoothly and more quickly makes the situation stable for both partners. This in turn gives the children confidence and a feeling of security."

Of course, a divorce is something you would rather not go through. For this reason, Petra and Bert give ample attention in the Scheidingscafé to the prevention of marital breakdown and to the phase leading up to a divorce.


Boekhandel Paagman, Frederik Hendriklaan 217, 2582 CB Den Haag.

Admission is free, the door is open!


Further information via:

www.scheidingscafe.com or e-mail questions to info@scheidingscafe.com

www.delissenmartens.nl, Petra Slingenberg, slingenberg@delissenmartens.nl

www.leeuwenhart.nl, Bert Ruitenbeek, all4u@leeuwenhart.wanadoo.nl