No-fault divorce benefits women

New York just became the last state to adopt no-fault divorce, or, as Betsey Stephenson and Justin Wolfers prefer to call it, unilateral divorce. The pair have done extensive research in the area:

Back in the 1960s, most states required evidence of fault as the only way out of marriage. In reality, this meant that if both partners consented to divorce, they just made up some marital fault and lied to the judge. The subsequent reform movement ended this charade, and led nearly every state to allow either spouse to unilaterally end the marriage.

[Unilateral divorce] shifts bargaining power to the person who most wants out of the marriage. Unfortunately, many people—including the president of the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women—think that this means it benefits the “moneyed” spouse. It doesn’t. … In fact, research suggests that it is more often the wife.

Our research has shown that, for some women, the shift to unilateral divorce is literally life-saving. We find that when states pass unilateral divorce laws, domestic violence declines, as does female suicide.

It is true that women become more likely to work outside the home following the adoption of unilateral divorce laws, but this is not evidence that these laws favor the moneyed spouse. The reason women work more is because unilateral divorce favors the person with the best options outside of the marriage. A paying job is one thing that affects your options outside of marriage. Equally, there are other important considerations, such as how happy you’ll be in your subsequent life, your chances of remarriage, and how much time you are likely to get to spend with your kids or grandkids.

(Counterintuitive? Old law: locked in. New law: let yourself out. Under the old law if you wanted out you had to pay your way out by taking fault and giving up some compensation. And under the old law, if you had good outside options the other spouse could ransom that reward.)

Read it all.

Moving to the marriage front, the officiant at Rush Limbaugh’s latest marriage was anti-gay/pro-traditional marriage preacher Ken Hutcherson. As Box Turtle put it,

It would appear that Hutch has reinterpreted “God’s definition of marriage” from “one man, one woman” to be “one man, four women, sequentially.”

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