Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Younghwan Song




divorce, fault, law, women, effect


Divorce devastates a family, and with over 40% of first marriages ending in divorce in the United States, it is important to analyze the effect divorce has on each member of the family. This paper aims specifically at the economic effect of divorce on women, and furthermore, if the implementation of a no-fault divorce clause in state law has negatively impacted women’s wellbeing. Women’s well-being is determined by annual income divided by annual need. The study looks at three different state divorce laws surrounding fault—fault-based, no-fault as the only option, and no-fault as grounds for divorce—as well as variance due to age, education, number of children, and race. The data is compiled from the Panel Study on Income Dynamics, which allows observations ranging from 1968-2011 of over 5,000 families in the United States. Panel data allows this study to trace a family’s well-being over time. Further research at the website of the American Bar Association was needed to find each state’s divorce law and the date of any changes surrounding fault. This paper finds that a no-fault divorce law has a significant effect on women’s wellbeing, as women under such a state divorce law face a decline in well-being greater than that of a fault divorce law. It appears that women under a fault divorce law are more likely to receive a larger portion of assets in the form of child support and alimony than women under a no-fault divorce law; these additional assets allow for a woman’s well-being to be considerably higher under a fault divorce scheme.