GAME THEORY AND CUSTODY DISPUTES Empirical Evidence for the Equality Principle
The adversarial nature of custody disputes poses risks for the involved children. Children to parents with a long-lasting, high-intensity conflict have been shown to suffer more than children involved in a peaceful separation. Means of successful mediation between parents in a custody dispute are therefore warranted. Reducing the total time between separation and court ruling is also warranted, as children suffer from uncertainty and low stability. The Equality Principle (EP) is a theoretical construct stemming from research in the fields of game theory and goalsetting theory. The EP can reduce the time requirements of custody disputes by introducing the threat of randomizing the outcome when parents can not come to an agreement. It can also serve to increase each parent’s offer of visitation time, by tying those offers to the outcome of the dispute. In this study the EP was tested experimentally as a means to increase cooperation between parents through the use of vignettes. In a within-subjects design experiment with 52 Swedish-speaking participants, offers of visitation time was measured in two conditions, represented by two different decision scenarios. The results show that participants offer higher amounts of visitation time in a decision scenario based on the EP than in one based on the present system. This study concludes that the EP shows promise in terms of being implemented as a tool to increase cooperation between litigating parents.