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Missing Contracts: On the Rationality of not Signing a Prenuptial Agreement

  • Antonio Nicolo'

    (Department of Economics University of Padua)

  • Piero Tedeschi

    (Department of Statistics University 'Bicocca' of MIlan)

Many couples do not sign prenuptial agreements, even though this often leads to costly and inefficient litigation in case of divorce. In this paper we show that strategic reasons may prevent agents from signing a prenuptial agreement. Partners which have high productivity in marital activities wish to signal their type by running the risk of a costly divorce. Hence this contract incompleteness arises as a screening device. Moreover, the threat of costly divorce is credible since the lack of an ex-ante agreement leads to a moral hazard problem within the couple, which induces partners to reject any ex-post amicable agreement, under specific circumstances. We also investigate conditions that make this contract incompleteness an optimal form of contracting and we briefly discuss the effects of enforceable and/or mandatory premarital agreements on the rate of divorce and on the social welfare. Finally, our model suggests that there is no major objection in making prenuptial agreements enforceable, but also that there are not good reasons to make them mandatory.

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File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/game/papers/0406/0406001.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Game Theory and Information with number 0406001.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: 04 Jun 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpga:0406001
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 50
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 11-26 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
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  7. Hermalin, Benjamin E & Katz, Michael L, 1993. "Judicial Modification of Contracts between Sophisticated Parties: A More Complete View of Incomplete Contracts and Their Breach," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 230-55, October.
  8. Steven Shavell, 1980. "Damage Measures for Breach of Contract," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 466-490, Autumn.
  9. Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, 02.
  10. Robert Townsend, 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Staff Report 45, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1999. "Unforeseen Contingencies and Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 83-114, January.
  12. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  13. Dye, Ronald A, 1985. "Costly Contract Contingencies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(1), pages 233-50, February.
  14. Diamond, Douglas W., 1993. "Seniority and maturity of debt contracts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 341-368, June.
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  16. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
  17. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1987. "Contracts as a Barrier to Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 388-401, June.
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