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What's a Wife Worth?

A Lot More Than She Used to Be, Thanks to Divorce Lawyer Michael Minton



In 1979, a young attorney named Michael H. Minton successfully argued that a housewife was worth more than $40,000 a year. The public snorted and the press made fun, but the ramifications proved enormous. When the dust finally settled, the 33-year-old Chicago lawyer had catapulted matrimonial law into an entirely new arena.

Michael Minton likes to tell you that he takes cases no one else will. It's not for the money, he says, or for another 15 minutes of Warholian fame, but because he doesn't like what happens to a lot of women when they get divorced. It isn't that Minton favors female clients. (His firm handles an almost equal number of divorce-seeking husbands.) What bothers him most is that divorce has been reduced to a battle of economics and its victims are almost always wives and children. The losers are further harmed by an overburdened court system that favors the party with the deepest pockets. Although last year Minton managed to win alimony for a doctor's husband, more often than not, the economically disadvantaged party is the wife.

Divorce attorneys are part of the problem, Minton says. Many like nothing better than a lengthy legal battle, he contends, describing a case he has just inherited in which the husband has already spent a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees over the last two years. This same man claims he can't afford to pay his wife $3,850 a month. Minton, on the other hand, says he's never fired a client for not being able to pay (a lot of divorce lawyers do), and directs his efforts toward reaching some compromise outside of court.

Minton willingly acknowledges that public opinion ranks divorce lawyers only slightly above ambulance chasers. But though they are the bloodsucking profiteers of domestic wrangling, they are both necessary and in great demand. Last year more than 50,000 couples in Cook County had reason to use them.

Minton believes there are fundamental differences in the way men and women approach divorce. Men, he will tell you, generally view divorce as a business transaction, another claim to be settled. Women tend to react. "For them, there's a far more emotional connection to the concept of ending a marriage. If a husband files first, he's generally planned months ahead, hiding assets, perhaps increasing his debt service, and if he's self-employed, cutting his own pay. Women don't approach it that way."

Minton thinks women would be a lot better off if they viewed marriage as an economic partnership and were more cognizant of their monetary value, particularly as homemakers. That's a long way from when the length of a marriage was thought to equal the distance between Niagara Falls and Reno.

Placing a price tag on housework isn't exactly a new idea. Economists, feminists, and political ideologues have skirmished over the concept for years. Even a Justice Department task force took a whack at defining the value of housework, and in 1979 came up with the following: "The home production that is a woman's primary responsibility is obviously not work. Since no money is paid for the services, it is not only not work, it is valueless." While the conclusion may seem antediluvian, it sums up the attitudes that have prevailed since Australopithecus set up housekeeping.

Enter Michael Minton and a wealthy couple called the Gallaghers. It was 1978, one year after passage of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Like most other states, Illinois had finally decided to come out of the dark ages and overhaul its matrimonial laws.

The primary changes focused on the concept of marriage as an economic entity to which each partner made a different but equally important contribution. This meant that in a divorce, both parties' contributions to marital assets would be recognized, including those of a spouse as homemaker.

Traditionally, most major assets were held in the husband's name. The old laws refused to recognize any ownership of property by virtue of the marriage itself and provided no economic reward for a wife's at-home contributions. A husband could sell the house out from under his wife, and as one infamous Missouri case had shown, even keep the fruit she'd canned. "It was obscene," notes Minton. "A husband could walk away from a 50-year marriage and leave his wife with nothing."

The idea that a wife could acquire rights to shared property from her contributions as a homemaker was so revolutionary and contrary to past experience that few realized its implications. Until the Gallagher case.

After 39 years of marriage, Mrs. Gallagher had decided to file for divorce from her husband, a vice-president of Sears Roebuck. Although he had an annual income of more than $250,000 and net assets exceeding a million dollars, he had no plans to turn much of it over to his wife. After all, he argued, it was his money, his earnings, his property. Why should his wife be entitled to anything more than the maintenance most ex-wives got?

But with alimony, what ex-wives usually got was the shaft. Past cases had demonstrated that those who needed alimony most--older women with no job skills--found it the least reliable. When an ex-husband retired, moved away, or died, the alimony ground to a halt. A legal battle with a nonpaying ex-husband could be prohibitively costly.

The concept of assigning monetary values to the services of a homemaker left Minton in virgin territory. He thought Mrs. Gallagher was indeed entitled to compensation, but how much was "just a housewife" worth? How could he quantify the enormous contributions he felt she had made as a homemaker, mother, hostess, corporate wife, and marital partner?

Not only did Minton need to affix a dollar amount to the nebulous and undefined role of homemaking, but he also had to convince the court that though the duties of her role were taken for granted, they earned Mrs. Gallagher an economic share in the gains her husband had made. After all, she had provided the environment in which he could successfully carry out his activities.

Minton's major argument centered on the replacement cost approach--a valuation method that determined what it would cost if someone else were hired to perform each one of Mrs. Gallagher's tasks. The total money paid all these replacements would then equal the value of her contributions to the household. Minton drew up a chart of 24 activities ranging from food buyer, nurse, and waitress to bookkeeper, dietitian, and child psychologist and based the earnings on prevailing hourly wages. When he was through, the annual figure had reached $40,288.04. (The same calculations today produce a sum of $48,698.)

But that was only the beginning. Minton called in expert witnesses to bolster his case. An employment expert confirmed that the 59-year-old Mrs. Gallagher had little hope in the job market. Her husband, on the other hand, would leave the marriage with his high earning power intact and even after retirement could expect to earn substantial fees as a consultant. An industrial psychologist and economist reinforced the importance of a corporate wife whose managerial skills at home influenced her husband's economic success. The psychologist went as far as putting a dollar value on her companionship, arguing that it could have influenced her husband's net worth by 20 to 50 percent. Finally, Minton reminded the court of another financial benefit: the amount a wife can save her husband on his taxes by enabling him to file jointly.

The Gallagher trial proved rancorous and protracted, and after it was over, legal actions dragged it out another year. But ultimately, the court did admit that the services of a homemaker had economic value. While it declined to place a price tag on them, the judge in the case awarded Mrs. Gallagher $40,000 a year in permanent maintenance, in addition to her share of the proceeds of the house, stock in her husband's company, 65 percent of the stock held in a profit-sharing plan, and part of his pension.

The case had set a precedent and Minton had established that homemaking and motherhood could no longer be considered a worthless enterprise. He had legitimized it as a profession.

Michael Minton hates Mondays. He hates Mondays because many of his clients have just spent the weekend with husbands or wives they're about to divorce. Many couples remain together before a divorce for economic reasons, but more often than not, it's a matter of not wanting to give up a claim on hallowed ground.

"By Monday, they're on the phone, asking me what I've done for them lately. I used to give out my home phone number in case of emergency, but then I got calls at all hours and people coming over to my house in the middle of the night. Now I define an emergency as something the police or fire department can handle. I'm also planning to keep my second marriage." Minton and his wife, Janice, a 38-year-old United Airlines flight attendant, recently celebrated the birth of a daughter.

Despite all the press and fanfare many of his cases have attracted, Minton is neither cocky nor flamboyant. There are no pinkie rings or pointy shoes. His words are quietly measured and his demeanor so low-key he seems more a therapist than a modern-day King Solomon. But the ministerial air belies a quiet rage beneath.

While Minton's ideas make most husbands squirm, he doesn't look like the type to foment revolution. Still, he manages to make audiences, especially audiences of men, foam at the mouth. All he has to do is talk about the value of a housewife.

"I agree with everything you say about housewives," a husband once told Minton after a speech. "I believe every man should own one."

Illinois, along with most of its neighboring states, provides for "equitable distribution" of marital property. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal; it's another word for fair. Under this rule, marriage is an economic partnership, an entity to which each partner makes a different but equally important contribution. A husband, for instance, can no longer say: "I earned all the dollars, therefore all the property is mine." With equitable distribution, title no longer rules--it doesn't matter in whose name the house, the Pinto, or the Picasso is held. On the other hand, unlike California, where marital assets are divided 50-50, in Illinois certain intangibles are taken into consideration during the division of property, such as the duration of the marriage and the economic circumstances of each spouse following the divorce.

In a sense, says Minton, equitable distribution grants a homemaker severance pay. "It says to the separating spouse: 'OK, if you want to call off this marriage, then you have to divide in an equitable manner the assets you have jointly acquired, so that each partner exiting from the marriage can be on par with the other.'"

Many of the early cases tried under the equitable distribution law have been appealed by disbelieving husbands, says Minton. "But time and again the appellate judges have upheld the view of the marriage as an economic partnership and recognized the economic value of a wife as homemaker."

The picture has also changed on pensions and benefits. It now looks like a homemaker has earned a share of those as well. In 1981, a Maryland judge concluded that "a spouse's pension rights, to the extent accumulated during the marriage, constitute a form of marital property." Same in Texas, where the court awarded a wife one half of her husband's civil-service retirement benefits. Ditto in Arkansas, where in 1981 a court ruled that the husband's profit-sharing trust and money-purchase pension were marital property. In a similar Illinois decision, the wife was given an additional $10,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the family home to offset her forfeited share of the pension fund.

A homemaker who relinquishes a budding career in favor of hearth and home may also be entitled to some compensation for her loss--or, as in a case that Minton won last year, his loss. States have begun to recognize that a spouse ought to be compensated for "foregone opportunities"--lost earning potential and impaired future earnings. Women especially don't quite appreciate the long-term losses that result from wives staying out of the labor market, says Minton. The losses are greater for those from higher educational and occupational levels "since they have higher market values that go to waste. Most wives have been willing to forgo investment because they anticipate sharing in their husbands' increased future earnings. But if the marriage dissolves, the husband still has the full benefit of his increased earning power and the wife has the full burden of the cost of her lost opportunities."

And as for even more intangible assets, "The courts are still feeling their way somewhat gingerly in this area but more and more are recognizing the wife's right to recompense for her investment in her mate's future earnings," says Minton. It's no longer unusual for a wife to be compensated for her contribution to her husband's medical degree, particularly if she's aided him financially. But a 1982 case in Wisconsin awarded a doctor's wife $25,000 based on his estimated future earnings--made possible by both her monetary and "around-the-house" support. In a case of poetic retribution, a New York court ordered a lawyer whose wife had helped pay for his education to do the same for her and put her through medical school.

Minton managed to rock the boat in family court again when he won the Rai case last year. In representing the husband of a woman physician, Minton employed the concepts he'd developed in the Gallagher case. The husband had petitioned for permanent alimony on the grounds that he had given up his engineering career to manage his wife's medical practice, supervise the couple's two children, and operate the family-owned restaurant business. Although the judge rejected the husband's request for permanent alimony, he was awarded $115,000 cash plus $2,500 a month for 30 months, $65,000 toward attorney's fees (which totaled over $180,000), and half his wife's pension.

In making the award, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jill McNulty commented: "I've never awarded rehabilitative alimony to a man before, but the divorce act is supposed to be sex neutral. If the roles were reversed, there would be no question that maintenance would be justified."

Minton says he sometimes gets the least sympathy from female judges "because they bend over backwards to be impartial and sometimes lose sight of the real issues." While a judge's impartiality is imperative, Minton thinks an unbiased judge is hard to find in family court. Especially in custody cases. Judges hate them. "They avoid them and try to pass them off. Nobody wants to deal with them except for lawyers, and that's because custody battles are the most lucrative cases you can get involved in."

If Minton had his way, mandatory arbitration would replace judges in divorce cases. "We need to remove the adversarial part of divorce. Why not have a panel of people, free from influence, with experts who can deal with the immense complexities of some of these cases? Often, the judges themselves don't know enough about what's going on."

The Illinois court system has already taken one small step in that direction. In custody battles, parties must now go through mediation, specifically two two-hour sessions, and must meet in the judge's chambers. "It's a start," Minton acknowledges, although the whole system continues to be extremely frustrating to him.

But going to court and incurring hefty legal fees remains one of the easiest ways for a wealthy male client to starve out his wife. "It's a common strategy that's used over and over," says Minton, who recently took on such a case. "The woman has two children and lives on $1,500 a month while her husband lives in a $400,000 condominium. In the past few weeks, he's motioned the court to further reduce her maintenance because he claims to have lost money in the October stock market crash. But it hasn't been enough to keep him from operating his three offices or taking his children out of the country on ski trips or paying his attorney $10,000 a month in legal fees. Now that this woman's maintenance will be reduced and she'll be forced to move, he's about to file a petition for a change in custody of the children. It's a strategy that works every time if you want a woman to settle. First you concentrate on taking her home and then you work on taking the kids."

Michael Harry Minton & Associates is one of a handful of firms in the city that exclusively handle divorce cases. While not as large as firms like Schiller Ducanto and Fleck or Rinella & Rinella, Minton and his two associates handle about 100 divorces annually. His reputation for setting precedents has won the firm a certain celebrity status--a status that is not only well- deserved but accentuated by his association with Los Angeles attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who became affiliated with the firm over a year ago.

Needless to say, Minton's own doings have gained the firm attention as well. He has appeared on 60 Minutes and Donahue (seven times). The firm has a practice of sending its female clients a dozen roses upon the completion of their cases. And a few months ago, Minton showed up in court during a divorce case wearing a tuxedo. When the judge wanted to know why, Minton told him, "This man happens to be my best friend. I think he deserves as much dignity and respect at the dissolution of his marriage as he experienced at its inception."

Minton considers his firm different from other divorce specialists for a couple of reasons. The first is his reluctance to become involved in custody cases: "[It's] the ugliest type of trial there is," he says, adding that fees usually run a minimum of $25,000--"and a million tears." The second difference is what Minton observes as his firm's antiadversarial stance. "A lot of lawyers like to mix it up in court, which amounts to a great disservice to the client. It's a common complaint that there are far too many lawyers ready to jump into court knowing full well that the court is totally unresponsive to the client's needs. If a divorce case is handled properly, the two parties should part on friendly terms with more money in their pockets than in the lawyers'."

Minton likes to boast that his own divorce from his first wife was one of the shortest on record. "I handled my own case and obtained what I considered to be the best legal counsel for my wife." Practicing what he preached, Minton says, he applied all the concepts he'd developed for determining a wife's worth to his own divorce agreement. "Even my ex-wife's lawyer said he would never have been able to get her that much."

Minton likes the fact that sometimes he even gets couples back together. Once, during an especially heated conference, Minton's client began to cry after her husband threw a file against the window. The man turned and blamed Minton for upsetting his wife and then complained, "I can't talk to her--but I still love her."

"Have you said that to her lately?" Minton asked him. The husband looked incredulous and then turned to his wife: "I love you, you bitch."

"At that point we broke for lunch," recalls Minton. When the couple returned they said they'd reconciled.

Minton says he gets invited to a lot of weddings and confesses to keeping a scrapbook of thank-you notes he's received from happily sprung clients. He also says it's not unusual for former clients to introduce him to their new spouses or request that he put together what's now called a postnuptial agreement.

Up until five years ago, prenuptial agreements were very much in vogue. But a lot of people were turned off by them and sometimes a marriage was canceled at the mere suggestion of a prearranged contract. Postnuptial agreements, however, don't carry the same threat, don't suggest the same lack of trust that prenuptial agreements do. Now they are often brought up in conjunction with wills, says Minton. "They usually take place a few months after the marriage and are a way of establishing some common ground," encompassing such things as the distribution of property, the allocation of debts, and child support--who pays and how much. "For a woman, it's a way of making sure the rug isn't pulled out from under her," Minton says. "Maybe the marriage will be better if she doesn't have to worry about her husband running off with his secretary and leaving her with nothing." Maybe it will be better if he realizes what she's worth if he does.

A few years ago, nearly all of Minton's clients were women. Now, he says, the split is nearly 50-50--"a by-product, perhaps, of women's accomplishments in the work force." Winning the Rai case certainly helped to net a few interested house husbands, but it has also attracted men who were curious to find out just where they might stand "in a hypothetical situation." "Again, it just goes to show that men contemplate a divorce action months in advance," he says.

Minton, who is 41, grew up in Mount Prospect and graduated from Northwestern's law school in 1971. As an undergraduate at Notre Dame he had started out studying for the priesthood. A year later he dropped the idea, realizing how much greater his base of influence could be outside the priesthood.

Although Minton says that growing up with four sisters may explain his sensitivity to the needs of women, it was his work in a legal aid clinic following law school that triggered his feminism. He was appalled at the state of women's legal rights--especially for those who were poor or abused or had no money for child support.

After Northwestern, though Minton felt particularly interested in family law, he joined a general practice firm to try out criminal and personal injury law as well. "I soon discovered what I'd always suspected. I was most effective doing divorce work, which gave me the chance to help those who were in otherwise "helpless' situations. I still find myself taking cases simply because I know no one else will."

Nevertheless, he harbors no illusions about the image of divorce lawyers. "We're considered to be something less than used car salesmen. We're the people you see after you've been to your therapist, your doctor, maybe the police. Your situation isn't working out and we're supposed to fix it. Then, you have to pay us to get you what you think was yours anyway. Add to that all the resentment and chagrin involved in having to reveal what are sometimes very intimate and unpleasant experiences. There's a sense of violation which I liken to having had a burglar rifle through your drawers. Let's face it, you don't often hear anyone saying, 'Hey, meet my divorce lawyer, he's a great guy!'"

Minton's success with the Gallagher case, along with its national recognition, prompted McGraw-Hill to approach him about writing a book. The result was What Is a Wife Worth? which he completed in 1983 with New York writer Jean Libman Block. While the book sold well in paperback, it did not do as well as Minton expected, given the huge number of radio and TV interviews its title had generated. The public seemed to be listening but not rushing out to buy the book.

Perhaps the key to the book's lukewarm reception lay in the audience's reaction to Minton when he appeared on Donahue after the book's publication. The predominantly female audience was outraged. "Even Donahue was shocked by the number of very angry women," Minton recalls. "It was all so unexpected. One woman accused me of trying to turn the American family into a corporation. How dare I pin a dollar value on housework? Most were incensed that I would price-tag something that 'money couldn't possibly buy.' But I wasn't doing that. I was merely demonstrating how valuable a homemaker could be in the eyes of the law."

Initially, Minton was confused by the resistance and wondered why so many women felt put down by the idea. Maybe women "don't want to be reminded that they've been exploited or shortchanged. When they hear talk of money, it's as if their cherished past is being trampled upon."

Minton believes the view of homemaking as a higher calling is one that's been rammed down our throats "by popular sociology, by magazines, and by fiction, to disguise the fact that the woman in her role of consumer has been essential to the development of industrial society."

In What Is a Wife Worth? he pointed to John Kenneth Galbraith for further explanation: "Just as the production of goods and services requires management so does their consumption. The higher the family income and the greater the complexity of the consumption, the more nearly indispensable this role." At this stage, what Galbraith calls "the convenient social virtue" kicks into place and what was formerly essential, says Minton, becomes "morally correct, virtuous, beneficent. The homemaker is acting out of a moral and altruistic compulsion to serve, and naturally she gets furious when someone comes along and tries to put a price tag on her role as hostess, cook, and mother."

But, he insists, "you don't see anyone accusing a hardworking wage earner of submitting to crass monetary values because they take it for granted that they will be paid for doing the job."

Although the new marriage and divorce laws represent some of the first efforts in effectively addressing domestic worth, the concept has been broached before. In 1980, a California woman proposed that a mother reentering the work force be eligible for veteran's benefits. Just like members of the armed forces, mothers serve their country, "and should be partially compensated for the risks they take and the contributions they make to the nation," she argued.

An idea conceived by Michigan professor Rae Andre proposes that homemakers hire one another to perform each other's work. Although the salaries would obviously cancel each other out, the plan would make women eligible for social security. Minton says some husbands have experimented with the idea of paying their wives for housework and then deducting the salary as a business expense, but the arrangement doesn't exactly send the IRS into paroxysms of pleasure.

Even the pope proposed in 1981 that heads of households be paid a "just" wage, along with family allowances, to enable mothers to devote themselves to child rearing. While being paid to stay out of the job market would give most any feminist apoplexy, the idea of family allowances isn't new at all. According to Minton, "It's been a long-established practice in Canada and Europe, where most countries provide subsidies to families with children."

A possible alternative may have been suggested by New York attorney Diane DuBroff, who has come up with the equivalent of homemaker's insurance. DuBroff suggests that a homemaker file a joint tax return and deduct as much as $1,500 annually as a contribution to a special homemaker's retirement account. Should the marriage last, the homemaker would receive the money for retirement or children's education. In the event of a divorce, the money would be paid out to cover child support and other expenses.

What if a relationship is without legal sanction or benefit of clergy--a "class B marriage"? Just what rights does the unmarried homemaker have?

Not many. "If you think a married woman has obstacles establishing her worth, just wait until you see what confronts an unmarried homemaker," Minton warns.

In a 1976 case that appalls Minton to this day (it's one of the few that he's lost), an Arlington Heights woman named Jacqueline Jarrett lost custody of her children because she lived with a man who was not the children's father. Minton reports that on the basis of Jarrett's "presumptive guilt of fornication--a class B felony under Illinois law, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail"--the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that she had forfeited the right to keep her children. Minton tried to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, but "the Court had never taken on a family-law case and chose not to at the time." Still, three out of the nine justices--it would have taken four out of nine to hear the case--were so offended by the Illinois court's decision that they filed a written dissent. In the end, Jarrett married the man she lived with and split custody with her ex-husband.

The Jarrett and Gallagher cases catapulted Minton into the limelight, much as the Marvin case in California had established Marvin Mitchelson as Hollywood's big daddy of palimony. Mitchelson had won nationwide publicity in the celebrated case involving Lee Marvin and the woman he had lived with for six years, Michelle Triola. Originally, Marvin ("I'll always take care of you, baby") had promised Triola monthly payments for five years after their breakup. He reneged after a year and Triola sued him for $1.5 million.

The case was tried under a breach-of-contract theory and the court ruled in favor of Triola, ruling that an express oral contract between parties could be enforced even between nonmarital partners. Although the decision was ground breaking, since past courts had ruled contracts between unmarried people invalid, the judge in the trial ultimately rejected the idea that there had been any agreement between the two parties--either explicit or implied. But as a remedy, Triola was awarded over $100,000. She had given up her career as a singer and the money represented the equivalent of two years of nightclub bookings at $1,000 per week.

Minton, who was a consultant for the case, argues that Mitchelson should have tried to establish a monetary value for Triola's contributions. In fact, two years after the case, the appeals court reversed the decision and Triola ended up with nothing. "I still feel that my approach would have won her a much larger settlement and one that wouldn't have been overturned," he says. Triola may have lost, but palimony became the buzzword for legions of displaced paramours.

In Illinois, the courts continued to reside in the dark ages. The state's obvious thumbs-down approach to palimony was summed up in a 1979 case (Hewitt v. Hewitt) involving an unmarried couple who had lived together for 15 years. (The woman had assumed the man's last name.) The woman felt entitled to a fair share of the property she and her lover had accumulated through their joint efforts. The case bounced around in the courts, ending up in the Illinois Supreme Court, which refused to recognize the woman's claims, citing public policy. In its ruling, the court expressed fears that a recognition of mutual property rights would "encourage the formation of 'illicit' relationships and weaken marriage as a foundation of our family-based society."

So much for palimony in Illinois.

But a major case Minton won last year may have profoundly changed all that. Rogeria Starr lived with Dino Nottolini for 10 years and served as his unpaid live-in nurse for the majority of those years. She testified that she had agreed to the commitment in exchange for some of his property when he died. Nottolini drafted a will and agreed to leave Starr the duplex they shared along with his Mercedes and some personal belongings. But shortly before his death, at the urging of his three sons, Minton alleged, Nottolini cut Starr out of his will.

Rather than sue for half her lover's property--the Hewitt case had already showed how the court felt about palimony--Starr sued Nottolini's estate for breach of contract. The court awarded her more than $500,000 in damages. (Although Marvin Mitchelson took the case after accepting a $25,000 retainer fee from Rogeria Starr, he never represented her in court. Minton was prompted to take over after it became apparent that the young associate Mitchelson had sent to assist in opening arguments was extremely inexperienced.)

In his written opinion, Judge Richard Curry took pains to note that "this is not a sex for sale case" and that "recognition of a binding contract under the particular facts of this case does not promote promiscuity . . . does not legitimize a relationship which Illinois has not seen fit to condone and does not offend Christian-Judeo morality. . . . We are not concerned here with condoning some new alternative lifestyle. We are concerned simply with enforcing the old and traditional common law contract."

Would a palimony case, by any other name, smell as sweet? Minton wonders.

After 17 years of helping couples part company, Minton admits under his breath that he hates divorce--if only for the emotional toll it exacts on its participants. Perhaps he is a Pollyanna for suggesting that the new rules governing marital law may actually serve to strengthen a relationship and make it last longer. (And not, he quickly points out, because husbands can't afford to divorce their wives anymore.) But Minton really does believe that marriage defined as an economic partnership will slow the rush to divorce court.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jon Randolph.

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