Thanks to Solangel, Dan, and the rest of the folks at Concurring Opinions for inviting me to be a guest blogger this month!
A few weeks ago, an Oklahoma judge was tasked with dividing Harold and Sue Ann Hamm’s $2Billion marital estate. And the judge’s only guidance was to divide it in any way that was, in his mind, “fair,” “just,” and “reasonable.” Billion dollar divorces like this one highlight long-known problems with divorce law. Namely, that courts have wide and almost unreviewable discretion over many aspects of a divorcing couples’ lives. When I ask students in my family law class how they would divide a particular marital estate, I generally get a lot of variation. Many people choose 50%-50%, a substantial number choose 66%-34% or 75%-25%, but there are always a lot of students who choose more extreme divisions, like 90%-10%. This highlights the lottery-like aspect of many family law issues.
But what can be done? I want to float a controversial idea, and then very briefly explain why it deserves serious attention.
Here’s the idea: Let local governments (like city councils) weigh in on how local judges should exercise their discretion.
The rest is below the fold…