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Strategic Bargaining Over Child Support and Visitation

  • Amy Farmer
  • Jill Tiefenthaler
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    When parents divorce, child support and visitation must be determined. The 1988 Family Support Act requires all states to have child support guidelines for courts to use in determining child support obligations. However, many divorcing couples arrive at agreements without court intervention, or they simply fail to enforce the court decision ex post. Given that the guidelines provide a starting point for negotiations, couples may be able to find self-negotiated, Pareto-improving solutions. In this paper we model the bargaining process that divorcing couples engage in when coming to agreements on visitation and child support. The model suggests that individuals may arrive at agreements that are Pareto improvements for both parents but that the children's welfare may decline as a result of these self-negotiated settlements. Data from the Stanford Child Custody Study show that the changes made in child support and visitation agreements are consistent with our model in only 30 percent of the cases. Therefore, we consider alternative specifications of the model and show that both significant costs of enforcing the original agreement and alternative assumptions on parental preferences can explain these empirical results. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1023/A:1025097401069
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Review of Economics of the Household.

    Volume (Year): 1 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 205-218

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:reveho:v:1:y:2003:i:3:p:205-218
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=109451

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    1. Mary Jo Bane & David T. Ellwood, 1983. "Slipping into and out of Poverty: The Dynamics of Spells," NBER Working Papers 1199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Del Boca, Daniela & Ribero, Rocio, 1998. "Transfers in non-intact households," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-478, December.
    3. Daniela Del Boca & R.Ribero, 2000. "The Effect of Child Support Policies on Visitations and Transfers," CHILD Working Papers wp1_01, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    4. Yoram Weiss & Robert J. Willis, . "Transfers Among Divorced Couples: Evidence and Interpretation," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 90-4a, Chicago - Population Research Center.
    5. Farmer, Amy & Tiefenthaler, Jill, 2001. "Conflict in divorce disputes: the determinants of pretrial settlement," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 157-180, June.
    6. Weiss, Yoram & Willis, Robert J, 1985. "Children as Collective Goods and Divorce Settlements," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(3), pages 268-92, July.
    7. Andrea H. Beller & John W. Graham, 1985. "Variations in the Economic Well-Being of Divorced Women and Their Children: The Role of Child Support Income," NBER Chapters, in: Horizontal Equity, Uncertainty, and Economic Well-Being, pages 471-510 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Saul Hoffman, 1977. "Marital instability and the economic status of women," Demography, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 67-76, February.
    9. H. Elizabeth Peters & Laura M. Argys, 2001. "Interactions between Unmarried Fathers and Their Children: The Role of Paternity Establishment and Child-Support Policies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 125-129, May.
    10. H. Peters & Laura Argys & Eleanor Maccoby & Robert Mnookin, 1993. "Enforcing divorce settlements: Evidence from child support compliance and award modifications," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 719-735, November.
    11. Laura M. Argys & H. Elizabeth Peters & Donald M. Waldman, 2001. "Can the Family Support Act Put Some Life Back into Deadbeat Dads?: An Analysis of Child-Support Guidelines, Award Rates, and Levels," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 226-252.
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