Marriage is an emotional decision about an emotional undertaking. It may not seem that economics has any role in emotions during and after the thrill of a wedding, but the science can save precious time and pain for people going through a divorce.
An economic approach to dividing shared property at the end of a marriage is often the best way to get arguing spouses to agree because it is the most objective approach to a very subjective problem. Lawyers can often be helpful during the negotiations over property division by tempering personal reactions and dealing with the legal concept of fairness.
People will often disagree on what is fair in a property division scenario. For instance, one may argue a shorter marriage warrants less transfer of assets than one person brought to a marriage, while longer marriages mean partners may have become far more reliant on their spouse's income and standard of living.
Economic estimates can help solve the more complex questions of property division, which usually involve larger and unconvertible assets. A house may be retained by one spouse while the other receives half its value in cash, or a house may be sold and the proceeds split. But if one spouse claims part of a future projected value of an asset, it's time to ask an economist.
The best ally that a spouse may have as he or she faces divorce is an attorney. Legal representation can increase the chances of a favorable settlement or court order regarding marital property, as well as potentially shortening the time it takes to resolve these issues.