Sunday, August 21, 2005

I is also for Incentive?

In U is for Upside-Down, I commented about how it seemed that our laws regarding divorce/alimony/child support seemed to punish people for what one might generally think of as 'good behaviour' and incentivize the bad. Reading Betsy Newmark's post on Michelle Malkin's blog (inspired by this post at The Club for Growth), I have to wonder if New Jersey's punative laws might be driving marriagable high-net-worth men out of state. Might be one reason why so many NYC-workers are commuting from several states away. (NJ and NY being ranked respectively 32d and 49th in terms of how favorable their tax rates are to individuals probably doesn't help either) Maybe I need to build a 'Wage-Earner-Livability Index'...
But to start with, the question that comes to mind is 'which are the best states to get divorced in/the best states to BE married in for a man.' Key items would be:
  • States that don't recognize community property.
  • States where child support has some cap, and is not an abusive percentage of income.
  • States where joint custody is encouraged, to the degree that it actually happens.
  • States that don't support an ex-spouse's right to live in the means to which she (or, very rarely, he) has become accustomed aka Crews v. Crews (See A is for Alimony)
  • States where loss of job or change in job status is grounds for reduction in support.
  • States where child support is optional when paternity is disproven.
  • States which require some sort of hearing or trial before protection orders or interim alimony orders, asset freezes are imposed.

Well, I'm off to do some research. I'll post an update when I get my facts together. Feel free to post other suggestions as to key 'married-male-positive' state features.


And the early results are in, and they are.... ....not overwhelmingly conclusive. To try and see if there was a disincentive to marry in male-unfriendly-divorce-states, I built a table of states showing what should have been male-positive legislative environments and ranked them. I was suprised to see NJ showed up 33rd out of 51 (had to include DC) by my current weighting, not great, but better than I thought - but looking I see that NJ Claims not to be a community property state for division of property. Hmpf. Well, you could have fooled me. NJ also gets boosted off the very bottom by recognizing shared custody, agreeing that child-support should not just be a percentage of income, and reducing it when the parents share children. But here is where you start to see the rub. My analysis utilized facts about the laws on the books, and failed to recognize behavior. Obviously NJ ACTS like a community property state in many ways. And of course the biggest factor should be what awards look like in terms of percentages of incomes, and that data just isn't to be had. But I had to go with what I had. So then I looked at marriage rates. Could I correlate marriage rates to better treatment of men? Sadly, the answer is not so much. Marriage rates are all over the place. Some states (Nevada, Hawaii...) are marraige 'destinations', and are clearly off the scale. Others have gung-ho economies that drive young, marriagable people to move there and tie the knot. But you can recognize SOME dogs in the data:

The bottom 10 states in terms of marriage rate: (number in parenthesis is my Men's Rights Ranking). I bolded states I wanted you to notice.

Oklahoma (18)
Connecticut (17)
Indiana (9)
Pennsylvania (26)
Georgia (28)
Massachusetts (22)
Wisconsin (47)
North Dakota (4)
New Jersey (33)
California (41)

And here are the bottom 10 states in terms of laws that should affect men's rights: (Hey, look, here are Wisconsin and California again!).

District of Columbia

So incentive may have had a strong effect on NJ and California, and the like. I am guessing North Dakota is looking at economic and social issues that lower their rate, or maybe the judges abuse men irregardless of the law. Happens in NJ, why not ND? Oh, there is a correlation on the other side of the marriage/divorce equation too. The two states I calculated as being friendliest to divorcing men show up in the 10 states with the highest divorce rates.

10 States Theoretically Friendliest to Divorcing Men (Rank in # divorces (higher=more) in parenthesis):

West Virginia (45)
Wyoming (48)
Kansas (23)
North Dakota (9)
South Dakota (15)
Maryland (20)
North Carolina (35)
Virginia (31)
Indiana (no data)
Maine (38)

The average ranking of these states seems to fall in the 30s, which makes me suspect that a male-friendly divorce environment encourages divorce to some degree.

Well, I plan on adjusting my weightings to make alimony a stronger negative, and we will see what happens from there. I will post the table of legalities at some point too.



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