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LOVE INSURED

Making divorce pay

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So much for "I do" being enough. Couples literally want insurance that their love will last, according to a company selling divorce policies that pay if a Mister and a Missus move to Splitsville. "Your odds of getting divorced are real and tangible, " said John Logan, founder, chairman and CEO of Safeguard Guaranty Corp, who has so far sold a few WedLock policies from his home in North Carolina. "Your circumstances change, people change, your life changes. "

WedLock policyholders buy units of coverage. Each unit costs $15. 99 per month and provides a cash payoff of $1, 250 if the policyholder divorces. A spouse who, for example, buys 10 units, stands to collect $12, 500 in the event of a divorce. The policy does not mature for four years. After four years, the units increase in value by $250 per year.

Greg Schutte, director of Marriage Works! Ohio, said couples would be better off using the money on things that would strengthen their relationship, be it ongoing couples counselling, therapy or regular dates. "To me, this insurance guy is not interested in what's best for couples, but is focused on the negative, " he said "We need to find more ways to support marriages."

Logan, who is recently engaged and, yes, is buying policies for himself and his betrothed, expects WedLock will become part of prenuptial agreements or be purchased for a bride or groom by relatives concerned about their loved one's choice of loved one. "Mom or Dad could buy this for their son or daughter without them knowing about it, " he suggests. But the bride or groom has to be the beneficiary.

The concept of collecting from an insurance policy by getting divorced doesn't even sit completely well with the underwriter. "We had to really think long and hard about the ethical side of the product and the insurance side of the product, " said Jeff Leman, chief operating officer of Prime Insurance, the underwriter. "After many revisions to the approach, we decided the idea had potential and served a legitimate insurance purpose, " Leman said.

Logan said buying divorce insurance is similar to buying homeowners insurance or life insurance - products meant to protect against disaster. There's something else to consider: 32 per cent of first-time marriages break up within eight years, he said, adding that another spike in divorces is seen after couples are married longer than 20 years. Two-thirds of second marriages fail within 15 years, and nearly three-quarters of third marriages end in divorce, he said.

Michael Schwab, a clinical social worker for Catholic Social Services of Miami Valley, said the policy seemingly promotes divorce and, like a pre-nupital agreement, he'd question a couple's desire to have it.

Logan conceded divorce insurance is a bit on the seemly side. "If someone offered me this product the day I got married, I would have punched them in the nose, " he said, noting that those who buy it are taking out a wager on the institution of marriage. As is the case with many business ventures, Logan came up with the idea based on his experience: He and his wife split after seven years of marriage. "It was world-class ugly, ' he said. 'It was one of those things I didn't see coming. When the dust settled, it was a situation where I was broke, for all intents and purposes. " Logan said he figured that he couldn't be "the only schmuck this had happened to. "

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