While Valentine's Day is viewed as a day to celebrate love, and groups like National Marriage Week USA plans to highlight the benefits of marriage, an attorney from Michigan is offering a free divorce to the couple from the state with the best break-up story.
"Win a free divorce for Valentine's Day," says the website of Southfield-based lawyer Walter H. Bentley. "ProBono, I am giving away one free divorce to the person who submits the most compelling case as to why they deserve a free divorce," it says with a toll free number flashing alongside the message.
Bentley charges about $3,000 for a divorce. And the winner for a free divorce will be chosen based on the most compelling and convincing story as to why they should be the winner, says Bentley, who is also a law professor. The divorce is limited to an uncontested case with no or minimum child custody issues, he adds.
Where did the idea come from? From a student in his law class, he says. "So she was having a divorce party to celebrate her divorce and I thought about Valentine's Day and said, 'Hey, why not help someone move on to that independence on Valentine's Day?'" Bentley tells WDIV.
Entries for the contest, which involves writing a note to the lawyer telling him the circumstances surrounding the divorce, are pouring in. "They're basically separated from their spouse but they're living in the house together and it's a very contentious house because no one has the money to move forward," Bentley mentions one of the stories he's received.
But the kind of story Bentley is looking for would be "the most heartwarming, that person who truly deserves it."
Meanwhile, a video at nationalmarriageweekusa.org is touting the financial, health and social benefits of marriage. National Marriage Week USA is celebrated from Feb. 7 to 14 annually.
Executive director of the organization Sheila Weber notes that married adults lead longer lives, have greater personal happiness, and better health. "…Marriage is really the unsung anti-poverty program because single motherhood is the greatest source of impoverishment for both women and children," she says in the video.
This year's National Marriage Week USA campaign features nearly 1,000 events, classes and conferences nationwide geared at helping married couples keep their relationship strong. The offerings are listed in a searchable database on the campaign's website.
According to research cited by the movement, American taxpayers spend at least $112 billion a year on divorce and unwed childbearing. Some 40 percent of all U.S. babies today are born outside of marriage, compared to less than 5 percent in 1960. The National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting notes that 72 percent of all African American babies are born outside of marriage today.