The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

231. R. Mnookin, Divorce, 3/98; subsequently published in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law, Peter Newman (ed.), (New York: Stockton Press, 1998), Vol. 1, A-D, 639-644.

Abstract: Divorce law provides the framework that governs the circumstances under which a marriage may be brought to an end and spouses are free to remarry. Divorce law also governs a number of distributional questions that arise on dissolution. Legal doctrines addresses four distributional questions, in divorce proceedings:

(1) How should a couple's existing stock of wealth be divided? (Marital property law);
(2) What ongoing claims should each spouse have on the future earnings of the other spouse? (Alimony or spousal support law);
(3) What ongoing claims should a child have for a share of the earnings or wealth of each parent? (Child support law); and
(4) How should the responsibilities and opportunities of child rearing be divided between the parents in the future? (Child custody and visitation law). (See Mnookin and Kornhauser 1979: 959)

This essay describes the revolutionary changes in this legal framework and exposes a variety of questions that Law and Economics scholarship has raised about the behavioral incentives and distributional consequences of divorce law.

231: PDF