Professor Carrie Paechter of Goldsmiths, University of London has been looking at how people think about fairness, when they are married, and then when they are divorcing. Her research paper called "Concepts of Fairness in Marriage and Divorce" is now avaible to the public. (I have attached the paper to this post, and it can also be accessed here - research.gold.ac.uk/8842/)
Carrie asked the Wikivorce community for their thoughts and perception of what fairness is to help with her research; you can read those comments and an explanation of what the research is about in her blog -
click here to access the blog
The description of the research paper is:
Discourses of fairness are bound up with Western ideals of companionate marriage. They are also central to the ways people talk about their approaches to divorce, especially in relation to the division of property and finances. How fairness is understood within marriage, however, is gendered, with husbands more likely to take equity-based and wives equality-based approaches. In this paper I discuss previous research on how fairness is understood within marriage, and compare this with data from a study of people going through divorce proceedings in England and Wales. I suggest that some, but not all, understandings about fairness are carried over from marriage into divorce, and note that in many ways English and Welsh divorce law supports a particular conception of fairness that redresses objectively unfair divisions of labour within the marital relationship.
Carrie is a long-standing Wikivorce member, although she usually posts under another name; she has previously carried out research into the crucial role of the online community Wikivorce provides in divorce case support, finding that an online community could provide vital support and advice for people representing themselves in divorce proceedings. Her paper called "Online Learning in Divorce: the development and operation of an online learning community through a divorce support website". You can access more information about this particular research and the paper by
Concept of Fairness in Marriage and Divorce concludes with:
Conceptions of fairness in marriage and divorce are mutually illuminating. Understanding how fairness is conceptualised by husbands and wives within generally well-functioning relationships helps us to see how, despite a continuing discourse of fairness, property disputes in divorce can become so bitter. Conversely, an analysis of how divorcing couples understand what constitutes a fair divorce settlement gives us further insights into the implications of differential conceptions of what is fair during a marriage. Applying these to English and Welsh divorce law, we can also see how it both reflects the Western ideal of companionate marriage, rejecting earlier, contract-based conceptions, and serves to intervene and, to an extent, redress, the unequal power relations that pertain within that ideal.
The paper is incredibly interesting, and enlightening, and once again, Wikivorce thanks Professor Paechter for the considerable time and effort that she has put into her insightful report.
We would be very interested to hear what you think about the research paper, and the concept of fairness in marriage and divorce generally.
Attachment concepts_of_fairness_formatted-ae7e579236f6e2a309ebb03b80d2da7b.docx not found
I am sure the author of this paper is well respected in the world of academia, but I will have to respectfully disagree with the sample of comments used in the paper.
From the face of it, the paper seems to be an intellectual endeavour, however, it quickly becomes apparent that the author does in fact have an agenda. In short, my deduction from this paper is that - a woman''s idea of settlement is implicitly fair and the man''s concept is innately unfair. I wish she would hear my story and that of many other men on this board as the concept of fairness is not gender biased, but based on morality, kindness and ability to want to do what is right.
I found it very interesting. It explains why STBXH and I are struggling to come to a financial agreement:
I gave up 8 years of my career (which includes evening meetings & weekends) to look after the children. I did all the home-making stuff etc. During that time he went from the same salary as me to over twice that salary.
Now I''m on £12k because I work part time so that I can still look after the children, and will need to do so for another 8-10 years before I can go full time. I only have a tiny pension pot.
STBXH is on £55k and has a large pension pot which is rapidly increasing each year.
So from my point of view:
- I have lost 8 years of working capital and will lose another 8 years of only being able to work part time...all of which affects both my salary and chances to progress.
- I need spousal maintenance to be able to afford to raise the children, because:
1.Due to the divorce I cannot work full time (whereas if we''d stayed married then we could have juggled childcare between us & I could have worked full time, as we had planned once youngest was at school)
2. The child maintenance nowhere near covers the additional cost of raising the children
- I need a house where we can all live (only asking for a 2 bed for me and 2 sons)
- I have to do all the housework, not just for me but also for the children & ensure they do homework etc because he only wants them for weekends & rarely does homework with them. I also have to organise the children (school trips etc)and take time off if they are ill (which affects my professional reputation)
- I feel like I''m his childcare provider (because he only wants them on days when he''s not working)
Whereas from his point of view:
- he has brought the money in for 8 years. Now he''s expected to subsidise my part time working with spousal maintenance while he has to work full time.
- He''s expected to give me more equity when he has been contributing more money to the marriage than I have
- He wants a 3 bed house because he doesn''t want to reduce his standard of living when he has being paying the mortgage for years
- He now has to do housework & so is now more time poor than previously
- He feels that he should not have to pay ''me'' once the marriage is over because the contract is over & I am no longer contributing.
- He has told the children that he has "no idea if just spend the child maintenance on spoiling [myself]"...because the money goes into my account.
This also helps me see why we''re likely to end up in court.
I''ve tried explaining my perspective, but due to his infidelity for many years, he had already stopped taking account of my contribution to the marriage in terms of childcare/home-making, well before I discovered his affairs. So I don''t think he''s able to ''hear'' the equality perspective.
Basically, it''s like we''re talking completely different languages.
If you can see his point of view this well, the problem seems to be that he cannot see yours?
I wish I could imagine my wife would be as reasonable as you! She stopped working before we had kids and says she is not going to go back even though the younger one is nearly a teenager now and do a lot of the little looking after she still needs.