The Greek Divorce Law Reform of 1983 and its Impact on Homemakers: A Social and Economic Analysis
484 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2002
Date Written: July 2000
In 1983, Greek Family Law was radically amended on the basis of gender equality and divorce law was liberalized, with the introduction of no-fault divorce and divorce by mutual consent. We aim to assess the potentially wide-ranging effects of the new divorce law on the social and economic status of homemakers in traditional, long-duration marriages. We reviewed a sample of 500 reported judicial decisions on maintenance and postdivorce distribution of marital property, finding that the new gender-neutral statutes on maintenance fail to protect the interests of homemakers after divorce. We identify judicial attitudes that misconstrue formal gender equality for substantive equality as a determining factor for such negative outcomes. We propose a new reliance-based model for Greek alimony law and illustrate that reliance is the most effective legal formula for acknowledging the nonpecuniary contributions of homemakers. Our research further demonstrates that homemakers are disadvantaged by the postdivorce distribution of marital property. We identified a number of problems that seriously compromise a homemaker's chances of receiving a fair share of marital acquests. The most prominent among them is that Greek courts do not apply clear-cut standards in evaluating a homemaker's domestic services, thus attaching a low value to their contributions within marriage. Yet another problem is that intangible assets (like the husband's postdivorce income and his pension benefits) are not designated as divisible marital property.
We conclude by arguing that the reform was overall socially effective; however, it had an unintended negative impact on divorced homemakers. First, because the legislators did not include any special provisions on homemakers. Second, because judges have generally interpreted the new statutes as if men and women are always equal on divorce, and further, as if all women are similarly situated.
To remedy these after-effects, we make specific proposals for future amendments. The central idea underlying these proposals is that divorce should be made more difficult for married couples with children. Lastly, we consider a number of measures that Greek policymakers can adopt in view of protecting divorced women and their children, while at the same promoting the social value of intact families.
[This is an unpublished doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Chicago and supervised by Prof. Gary S. Becker, Judge Richard A. Posner and Prof. Mary A. Becker]
JEL Classification: J12, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation