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Settlement in a Divorce Case
|Title||Settlement in a Divorce Case|
|Publication Type||Case Study|
|Year of Publication||1998|
|Corporate Authors||of Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute Technology|
|Publisher||Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology|
|Keywords||Law , Legal Issues , Public Policy|
Recently Lorna J. Wendt turned down a $10 million divorce settlement from her husband of thirty-one years, Gary C. Wendt, the CEO of General Electric, whose net worth may be as much as $100 million. She argued that helping put her husband through Harvard Business School, and then taking on the role of a corporate executive's wife, which involved, in her case, playing hostess at business parties, organizing charity events, relocating on very short notice, and listening patiently to tales of office woes, were investments that entitle her to one half of Mr. Wendt's fortune. While a 50-50 settlement is common practice in divorce cases, American courts generally will not award a wife one half when more than 10 or 15 million dollars are at stake. Instead, the wife is awarded an amount that enables her to live in the style to which she has become accustomed. Martha Fineman, a Columbia University law professor who testified at divorce proceedings for Ms. Wendt, says that a decision against Ms. Wendt "would say that [women's] typical contributions to a marriage are not valued." Mr. Wendt says, "she (Ms. Wendt) was not responsible for my success --this is about who created and preserved the assets." Is Ms. Wendt entitled to one half of Mr. Wendt's assets? If so, why? If not, why not?
Case from the February 26, 1998 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Copyright Robert Ladenson, Center for the Study of Ethics at the Illinois Institute of Technology, 1998.
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