Miami Beach

Celebrating new beginnings: Riviera South Beach hotel hosted ‘Miami’s first-ever divorce party’

The Riviera South Beach hotel in Miami Beach has seen its share of honeymooners over the years, but on a recent Friday night, the penthouse suite was the setting to celebrate untying the knot.

Organized by Debbie Martinez, a certified Mindful Life coach specializing in divorce and a Supreme Court-certified family mediator, “Miami’s first-ever divorce party” was filled with cheer, positive energy and plenty of dark humor.

As the music pulsed, men and women mingled while sipping Run Baby Run specialty cocktails and munching on frosted cupcakes adorned with plastic wedding rings with “for sale” tags.

Guests were encouraged to take home mini wooden coffins, write on a piece of paper anything negative they wanted to let go of, put it inside, and then bury the box. Other party favors included donkey-designed stress balls, handy for when the ex is being a, well, jackass.

“I wanted to bring people together who have walked a similar path,” Martinez said. “It’s celebrating a new beginning, not a divorce. There’s humor, but it’s not insulting.”

Women who donated their wedding gowns for charity received a free Moving On box containing rose-colored glasses, a compass/whistle to “always find your way,” a journal, a little black book and a tiara, among other items. The gowns will go to Brides Against Breast Cancer (

The event also drew in singles group organizers and party rental suppliers. Martinez said after announcing the party she received several request for more divorce parties. She’s already agreed to do one in Delray Beach in the fall.

The party atmosphere was fun and light-hearted, but divorce is no joke for Martinez. It wasn’t so long ago that she found herself in the same state of shock many of her clients are in when they first meet.

Martinez, who also writes a divorce column for the Huffington Post, Sun Sentinel and Florida Villager magazine, was a stay-at-home mother in her late forties when her former husband left her six years ago.

She contemplated returning to her early career as a behavioral therapist for kids, but then a friend suggested the Mindful Life Coaching program in San Diego and she was instantly hooked.

“I thought it was the neatest thing. The momentum is always about moving forward,” Martinez said.

Now she’s teaching others — mostly women — that divorce does not have to mean the end of everything. It might actually be the beginning of something better.

“You’re empowered when you go to Debbie,” said Melanie Castro, a client. “I walked in her office and she said, ‘Your plan B is better than your Plan A. You’re going to get through this.’ ”

But Castro didn’t get a divorce. After months of one-on-one coaching with Martinez, she and her husband decided to give it another shot. They began attending sessions together and have been happily together for the past three years.

Before trying divorce coaching, Castro went to several therapists. They listened to her talk and were sympathetic, and it was helpful for her three sons, but she said coaching played a more active role in her recovery.

“I needed someone to tell what I could do to make it better,” Castro said. “I don’t think I would have survived if not for Debbie Martinez.”

Life coaching is relatively new, and divorce coaching even more so. It has gained some popularity in part thanks to celebrities, such as Katy Perry, who shared she had turned to a “heartbreak coach” after her divorce.

In her practice, Martinez aims to reframe her client’s perceptions about the divorce. She also focuses on helping them reinvent themselves, find their passions, figure out what they want to change about their lives.

“People are starting to realize there is a better way to get through a divorce,” Martinez said. “I have seen my clients transform.”