Incentives to cooperate and the discretionary power of courts in divorce law
In this paper, we study how the uncertainty in the behavior of judges provides parents going to separate with incentives to cooperate. We introduce a model of cooperative bargaining to describe the behavior of parents whose preferences satisfy the characterization of risk averse/pessimistic types proposed by Yaari (1987, Econometrica, 55, 95–116) in his Dual Decision Theory under Risk. The behavior of the judge is modeled in a simple manner: he is either supposed to follow a strict rule (we will say that he uses an imperative scale of alimony), or he may use discretion (he uses an indicative scale of alimony). The point is that for both parents the judgment represents an external opportunity to divorce—the disagreement point in negotiation. We show that the effective decision of parents (cooperation versus trial) depends on the specific structure of the costs and risks associated with divorce procedures, such that more uncertainty at trial increases the incentives to cooperate for risk averse parents. Finally, we give a characterization of the optimal degree of the judges’ discretionary power required to maximize the parents’ gains from negotiation. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006
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