Divorce Bargaining: The Limits on Private Ordering

In an article published in the Yale Law Journal, I suggested an alternative perspective for family law scholars concerned with divorce. It emphasized negotiation, not adjudication; private ordering, not regulation. This change in emphasis seemed timely, if not overdue. Available evidence has long shown that the overwhelming majority of divorcing couples resolve the distributional questions concerning marital property, alimony, child support, and custody without bringing any contested issue to court for adjudication. Therefore, the primary impact of the legal system falls not on the small number of contested cases, but instead on the far greater number of divorcing couples outside the courtroom who bargain in the shadow of the law. Thus, my emphasis is on negotiation not adjudication.