The Effect of Conflicting Moral and Legal Rules on Bargaining Behavior: The Case of No-Fault Divorce
We hypothesize that the no-fault divorce law is in conflict with moral intuitions favoring punishment for people who break the marriage contract and that people will be either unwilling or unable to fully ignore marital fault in the context of divorce settlement negotiations. In four Web-based experiments, we asked subjects to read vignettes about divorcing couples and then to rate proposals by each party about how to divide the marital property. Under instructions to ignore fault, subjects nonetheless rated wrongdoers' proposals lower than victims' proposals. Some subjects ignored fault purposely, while others were unaware of their own bias. We also find evidence of self-serving bias; subjects taking the perspective of a victim showed more fault-based bias than did subjects taking the perspective of a wrongdoer. We conclude that under certain conditions of unilateral fault, the no-fault divorce law may actually increase the likelihood of impasse in divorce negotiations. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..
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