How Much Is a Marriage Worth?

The news of Heather Mills McCartney's nearly $49 million divorce settlement was the talk of both the tabloids and legitimate news sources yesterday, and it wasn't just because Mills' split from Paul McCartney was so acrimonious. The haggling over money when one spouse is far wealthier than the other begs the question: How much is a marriage "worth"? Pundits and the peanut gallery alike have been griping about Mills's payday — she will receive the equivalent of $1,300 an hour for every hour of her four-year marriage to Paul McCartney. During a segment about the McCartneys and the price of marriage on GMA this morning, the implication was that a wife only deserves that kind of money when her presence helped a husband create his fortune.

Lorna Wendt, the ex-wife of GE Capital CEO George Wendt, was originally offered $8 million following the couple's divorce after 32 years of marriage. Lorna thought she was worth half of the $100 million fortune George had amassed, and after taking her ex to court, ended up receiving $20 million. She told Fortune magazine: "I complemented him by keeping the home fires burning and by raising a family and by being the CEO of the Wendt corporation and by running the household and grounds and social and emotional ties so he could go out and work very hard at what he was good at... If marriage isn't a partnership between equals, then why get married? If you knew that some husband or judge down the road was going to say, 'You're a 30% part of this marriage, and he's a 70% part,' would you get married?"

Arguably, Mills never created any sort of McCartney corporation. Nearly all of her ex-husband's money and success had been amassed long before she came on the scene. But does that mean she deserves less of the pie? Then there's the couple's young daughter, 4-year-old Beatrice. In addition to the $49 million, McCartney will pay $70,000 a year for Beatrice's nanny and school fees. To this sum, Mills griped, "[Beatrice is] obviously meant to travel B class while her father travels A class."

The court of John Q. Public has been, well, less than sympathetic to Mills In the comments section of a New York Times item analyzing the press coverage of her, reader "wendy" says of Mills, "Another money hungry 'female dog' that gives us good women a bad "name". You didn't have it when you met him and shouldn't have it when you leave him..." No one but the people involved know the real details about the Mills-McCartney marriage, though the pair's divorce proceedings will be made public as per a court decision today, despite an appeal from Mills yesterday. But again: even if we knew the intimate details, how do we put a price on them?

A Well-Covered End To The McCartney-Mills Marriage [NY Times]
The Price Of Romance [Guardian]
It's Her Job Too: Lorna Wendt's $20 Million Divorce Case Is The Shot Heard 'Round The Water Cooler [Fortune]
McCartney Divorce Ruling To Be Released [AP via Yahoo]