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Domestic Violence and Divorce Law: When Divorce Threats Become Credible

CAF–Development Bank of Latin America

The cost of divorce influences the bargaining position of spouses and thus their behavior within the marriage. This study takes advantage of a major and unexpected reduction in divorce costs in Spain to estimate the causal effects on domestic violence. Results suggest a 30% decline in spousal conflict as a consequence of the reform. Spousal violence is found to have decreased among couples who remained married after the modification in the law, which suggests an important role for changes in bargaining within the marriage when divorce becomes a more credible (cheaper) option.