The Equality in Marriage Institute began in a spare bedroom in December 1998
after Lorna Wendt found herself a reluctant national spokesperson for 50-50 mar
riages. After her high-profile divorce as a corporate wife thrust her into the h
eadlines, she received so many calls asking for advice and encouragement that sh
e knew she had to help.
"I began searching myself," she says. "Maybe I had been given the job to use this case to let the public what can happen."
The Institute soon outgrew the bedroom and moved into an office building in Stamford, Conn. A modest website was established to provide information to constituents around the country.
Nancy in Massachusetts saw Lorna on a TV talk show and called to ask for advice in protecting herself financially as she began the divorce process. Pam from Florida contacted the Institute to find out if she would be still be able to receive stock options divided in the divorce if her former spouse left his job and moved to another state. Leigh emailed from North Carolina to find out what pension rights her mother-in-law in New Jersey should expect in petitioning for a divorce from her husband of 35 years. David in New York emailed for tips on how he could help his new wife become financially more savvy in order to be an equal partner in their marriage.
As the number and scope of questions have grown, so has the Institute. In July 2000, the Institute moved to offices in New York City where the staff includes Ellen Sabin, an experience public health advocate, as director and Sarah Emond as operations manager.
The Institute has extended its service by partnering with NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., to produce Divorce Planning: A Guide for Women and with the Pension Rights Center to update Your Pension Rights at Divorce.
The original website has been completely redesigned to help individuals whether they are building equal marriages or navigating equal divorces. The Institute provides people with a place to seek information and encourages them to act upon it.
"What you and your partner or spouse do is up to you," Lorna Wendt makes clear. "It doesn’t matter to me. But I want you to have conversations about what marriage means to you—emotionally, legally, spiritually and financially. You have to be responsible for what’s going on in your life."