Divorce law

The current study integrates a family social science perspective with existing research in law and economic fields. The integration of family social science, law, and economics provided a useful framework for exploring the financial consequences of divorce law. Family social science, combined with economics, support the view of marriage as an economic partnership. Finally, family law/policy was used to assess the equity of post-divorce financial outcomes for family members through actual court orders and several strategies suggested in legal literature for improving equity in court decisions.

Considering all income distributions made at the time of divorce incorporates a more holistic perspective of legal financial decisions. Including both child support and spousal maintenance decisions in the analysis of families’ economic situations provides a more holistic picture of the economic consequences for families, as opposed to considering only spousal maintenance or child support. Evaluating the equity of financial decisions, based on both child support and spousal maintenance awards, may reveal a more realistic picture of the financial consequences of legal decisions.

The current research explored the degree to which 1999 Minnesota legal decisions for allocating incomes after divorce produced sufficient levels of living for male and female-headed households, and evaluated the degree to which the money incomes for the two households were equitable. Further, several alternative strategies, suggested in the literature for achieving more equitable outcomes than current procedures, were evaluated and compared. The term strategy is used to include both the actual court order and the alternative strategies used by other states and suggested in the literature.

The current method for allocating incomes, the actual court order, and the alternative strategies, all represent different strategies for dissolving the economic partnership of marriage. However, the alternative strategies evaluated in the current research were all formula based, where as the actual court order was not. Therefore, the term formula may be used when discussing the alternative strategies, but will not be used when the actual court order is included.

The research design was a repeated measures MANOVA, having within subjects factor of strategy for allocating income and household/gender; and between subjects factors of pre-divorce total gross income level, and length of marriage. Post hoc analyses were also conducted. This chapter begins with an overview of the population from which the current study’s sample was derived. Sampling, data collection, and coding procedures from the larger project are described, followed by selection procedures and data preparation for the current study.

The measures and statistical design for the current study are explained prior to the results chapter. The sample for the current research resulted from a study funded by a grant from The McKnight Foundation to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Division. The study investigated the adherence to the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines of court orders for child support for 1999 divorces involving minor children. There were 15,494 divorce decrees in 1999, of which 9,388 included children (Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child support Enforcement Division, 2002).