Can Rupert Murdoch Make Women Stay Married?

Can Rupert Murdoch Make Women Stay Married?

Can Rupert Murdoch Make Women Stay Married?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Feb. 16 2000 11:40 AM

Can Rupert Murdoch Make Women Stay Married?

Last night, the Fox network broadcast a special called Who Wants To Marry a Multi-Millionaire? The program showcased 50 women competing for the right to marry a "mystery mogul" about whom they knew nothing except that he is worth $8 million and isn't in the computer business. (This last was apparently a common concern among contestants.) It turned out he is a handsome fortysomething who deals in Southern California real estate.

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Fox billed the extravaganza as "The One Vegas Wedding No One Will Regret In The Morning!" But what if one of the parties does regret it?

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the contestant who wakes up in a Las Vegas hotel next to the world's only handsome multimillionaire who needed the resources of the Fox network to find himself a wife, finds herself dissatisfied with the arrangement. Or that the "mystery mogul" whose wife married him just for the money begins to worry that she married him just for the money. Can they get divorced tomorrow?

Fox lawyers aren't saying what was in the contracts the participants in this exercise were required to sign. But could Fox require them to stay married for some decent interval?

Answer: almost certainly not. When it comes to things like marriage, courts almost never require people to do what they promised. Actually forcing a person to perform on a "personal services contract" this serious is held to be tantamount to slavery, which is banned under the Constitution. Fox might be able to sue for damages, if it could prove their refusal to continue the marriage had cost the network in some way. But even a substantial penalty clause is usually held to be constitutionally unenforceable.

Moreover, courts will not enforce contracts that they deem "against public policy." For instance, Mary Beth Whitehead was not required to give up Baby M, even though she promised to do so, since encouraging the mother-child bond is public policy in New Jersey. Explainer is pretty sure that even Nevada courts would find Who Wants To Marry a Multi-Millionaire? to be against public policy.

Fox could probably enforce a clause requiring the regretful winner to give back jewels and gifts she was given by the show. But if her husband's $8 million isn't enough to keep her interested, a few baubles probably aren't going to change her mind.

The show was actually taped one week ago, and Fox executives assure reporters that the winning lady and the mystery man are still together so far, enjoying their honeymoon.