Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Divorce and Fairness

In a mediation couples usually feel that the standard of resolving a dispute is usually “fairness.” Unfortunately, like beauty fairness is in the eyes of the beholder. The standard that I prefer as a mediator is “acceptable.” Contemplation of “fairness” has lead me to determine what is the popular view of “fairness.” Wikipedia gives a good overview of “fair division” at It says in part: “Fair division, also known as the cake cutting problem, is the problem of dividing a resource in such a way that all recipients believe that they have received a fair amount. The problem is easier when recipients have different measures of value of the parts of the resource: in the "cake cutting" version, one recipient may like marzipan, another prefers cherries, and so on—then, and only then, the n recipients may get even more than what would be one n-th of the value of the "cake" for each of them. On the other hand, the presence of different measures opens a vast potential for many challenging questions and directions of further research. There are a number of variants of the problem. The definition of 'fair' may simply mean that they get at least their fair proportion, or harder requirements like envy-freeness may also need to be satisfied. The theoretical algorithms mainly deal with goods that can be divided without losing value. The division of indivisible goods, as in for instance a divorce, is a major practical problem. Chore division is a variant where the goods are undesirable. Fair division is often used to refer to just the simplest variant. That version is referred to here as proportional division or simple fair division.” I wonder if the “cake cutting problem” actually begins at the wedding. More about the "cake cutdtting problem" as a tool in medidation in my March 21, 2008 blog on Divorce Proverbs and Aphorisms at As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM (196) 12/1/10

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