The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce

The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce

The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce

The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce

Synopsis

The key role of "incentives" in family law is considered in this economic approach to family law. The book discusses the possible adverse consequences emanating from faulty legal design, while demonstrating that good family law should provide incentives for consistent and honest behavior. Economists, specialists in the economic analysis of law, and academic lawyers discuss recent advances in specialized studies of marriage, cohabitation, and divorce. This important new work will be of considerable interest to lawyers, policy-makers and economists concerned with family law.

Excerpt

This book is a response to growing public concern about family breakdown, which is associated in the academic world with a burgeoning interest in marriage and divorce. Academic interest has spread beyond the conventional boundaries of socio-legal studies, and a new literature has emerged that draws on economic analysis to illuminate the dynamics of family formation and dissolution. This new approach is distinguished by the importance it assigns to incentives. Whereas other approaches mostly belittle the role of incentives, the economic approach gives them a central place in the analysis of marriage and divorce. Legal and other policy innovations that substantially alter the structure of incentives are presumed to have a significant impact on individual behavior and hence on the formation, operation, and dissolution of families.

Some followers of the economic approach are professional economists, some are specialists in the economic analysis of law, and still others are academic lawyers. They are all represented in this book. The subject matter of the book may be loosely described as “the economic analysis of family law” in so far as it concerns marriage, divorce, and related issues. The literature on this topic tends to be largely American in origin and is scattered around a wide diversity of academic journals. In this book we bring together some of the major authors in the field, who survey and synthesize existing literature and in some cases provide new analyses of their own. The American approach is beginning to catch on in Britain, and the British authors in this book bring a fresh perspective that may be of interest to Americans.

A major impetus behind the growing academic interest in the economics of family law has been the spate of initiatives to reform family law in North America and elsewhere. In the USA, the American Law Institute (ALI) has recently published new guidelines on the law of marital dissolution, which are likely to be highly influential in the design of state-based family law codes. Although the ALI guidelines may seem to fly in the face of economic logic in some areas, such as the arbitrary nature of the rules governing spousal maintenance payments, there is no doubt that debate has been stimulated among observers with economics training. Similarly, in England, the Lord Chancellor's Department has displayed increased interest in exploring the economic basis of . . .

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