Divorce Law Research Paper

Negative financial consequences of divorce have been documented, however, alternative strategies for dissolving marital economic partnerships have not been compared or empirically explored. Minnesota 1999 actual court orders (n=414) and five alternative strategies were evaluated and compared for the degree to which each strategy produced equitable income distributions and sufficient levels of living for male and female-headed households. The distributive justice theory was used by applying the principles of equity, needs, and contributions, to the financial outcomes determined by the various strategies.

The research design was a repeated measures MANOVA, having within subjects factors of strategy for allocating income, and household/gender; and between subjects factors of pre-divorce total gross income level, and length of marriage. Males had higher income-to-needs ratios than females with each strategy except the income sharing formula. Minnesota’s actual court orders and the income sharing formula produced the most discrepant male and female income-to-needs ratios and the actual court order also resulted in the highest percentage of females living at and below the poverty level.

Results suggested concern for child welfare because the majority of females in this sample were custodians. Implications suggested that a change is needed in the practices of allocating incomes, if the distributive justice principles of equity, needs, and contributions are values that should be realized. Singer and the Premarital Security Agreement formulas produced the most equitable income-to needs ratios, compared to the actual court order, when considering the equity principle; and the fewest households below and at the poverty level, when considering the needs principle.

The greater disparity between male and female income-to-needs ratios in higher, compared to lower pre-divorce total gross income levels, and the strategies’ overall failure to account for length of marriage, were a concern if the contribution principle should be realized. Future research should explore using various combinations of the formulas, and the outcomes produced by using different strategies for different income brackets and length of marriage categories. Policy makers should consider the use of formula-based strategies if equity is a goal, because formula-based strategies produced more equitable outcomes than the actual court order.