Unilateral Divorce vs. Child Custody and Child Support in the US.

Rafael González-Val, Miriam Marcén
Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain

There is extensive literature examining changes in divorce rates focusing on the effects of changes in divorce laws. Previous analysis omits reforms that introduced changes in divorce settlements. This might in somehow obscure the impact of unilateral reforms on divorce rates. In this paper, we extend on the previous analyses offering insights on the impact of unilateral divorce on divorce rates after controlling for several reforms of aspects of law relevant to divorce. We introduce both joint custody law reforms and Child Support Enforcement efforts. Our results suggest that those reforms play an important role in explaining the behaviour of divorce rate in the 1980s and 1990s. Supplemental analysis, developed by exploiting time-series analysis, also suggests that what is driving the evolution of the divorce rate in the 1980s and 1990s is a shock that had a negative effect on divorce. This seems to confirm that unilateral divorce reforms do not have a negative effect on divorce rate in the long run. After ten years of the implementation of unilateral reforms, what seem to conduct the evolution of divorce rates are those reforms on the laws that govern the aftermath of divorce.

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