Doug Allen on same-sex divorce

Doug Allen argues that marriage is an institution designed and evolved to regulate incentive problems that arise between a man and a woman over the life cycle of procreation.

The real problem with same-sex marriage is same-sex divorce according to Allen. Marriage includes a set of exit provisions in terms of the possible grounds for divorce, rules for splitting property, alimony and child support rules, and custody rules. Allen also argues that:

  1. Many institutional rules within marriage are designed to restrict males from exploiting the specific investments women must make upfront in child bearing;
  2. Since same-sex marriages are not based as often on procreation, these restrictions are likely to be objected to and challenged in courts and legislatures;
  3. To the extent divorce laws are changed, they may hurt heterosexual marriages, and women in particular; and
  4. Given that same-sex relationships are often made up of two financially independent individuals, there will be litigation and political pressures for even easier divorce laws since the problem of financial dependency will be reduced.

Alterations in divorce laws to deal with issues of same-sex divorce necessarily apply to heterosexuals, and these new laws may not be optimal for heterosexuals, making marriage a more fragile institution for them. The actual outcomes of no-fault divorce laws, as an example, could hardly have been more different than what was expected and intended. The most obvious outcome was large increases in divorce rates.

No fault divorce laws influenced the rate at which women entered the workforce, the amount of hours worked in a week, the incidence of spousal abuse, the feminisation of poverty, and the age at which people married. No-fault divorce influenced a series of other laws related to spousal and child support, child custody, joint parenting, and the definition of marital property.

Marriage may provide a poor match for the incentive problems that arise in the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. Doug Allen is also of the view that putting all three relationships under the same law could lead to a sub-optimal law for all three types of marriages.

Allen in summary argues that marriage is an economically efficient institution moulded around the long-term interdependencies of child-rearing heterosexuals. He argues that homosexuals wishing to marry would be better served by a separate, gay-specific form of marriage.

I forgot to mention the second wives clubs which lobby for limits the length of time of alimony to the first wife. The British 2nd Wives club in their legal advice page starts with these points:

  • Do you need to disclose your income or assets to an ex-wife?
  • Should your income be taken into account when assessing child maintenance?
  • Should child maintenance change when you and your husband have children of your own?

2nd wives clubs are natural allies for higher income gay divorcees wanting to pay less alimony. Nothing I have sent here is an argument against same-sex marriage willing as long as you are willing to live with the fact that it may have a few unintended consequences.

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