Why Do Most People Follow the Default Matrimonial Property Regime in Chile?


Publish Date:
December 17, 2018
Publication Title:
Economic Analysis of Law Review
Journal Article Volume 9 Issue 2 Page(s) 232-258
  • Omar Patricio Vásquez Duque, Why Do Most People Follow the Default Matrimonial Property Regime in Chile?, 9 Economic Analysis of Law Review 232 (2018).


Spouses in Chile have three different choices of matrimonial property regimes to regulate their pecuniary relationships among themselves and with third parties: marital partnership, separation of goods, and community of gains. The default regime is the marital partnership, and most people go along with it at the moment of marriage. Spouses can, however, opt out before and after the marriage to any of the two other alternatives. Taking into consideration data from 2006 to 2014, on average, 55% of spouses went along with the default regime.

The prevalence of marital partnership occurs despite the increase in divorce rates, the discriminatory nature of the regime towards women, and a significant rate of ex-post opt-outs. The preceding sheds doubt on the reasons why people—and particularly women—might prefer the marital partnership. This study intends to determine: (i) whether the default regime imposes an emotional tax on spouses or prevails because of inertia; (ii) the impact of social norms in people’s decision making; (iii) misperceptions about divorce rates; (iv) optimism bias; and (v) knowledge of current restrictions women face under the marital partnership. Finally, this study assessed (vi) whether people would find it acceptable to switch the default rule to separation of property. With this purpose, I surveyed married people in Chile with the help of social media.

The findings showed that the default did not impose an emotional burden for most people who decided to stick to it. While inertia and herd behavior might have influenced 33% of people who went along with the default, ignorance about the actual divorce rates, optimism, and unawareness about the restrictions the marital partnership imposes on women provided a better explanation on the high rate of spouses that stuck to the marital partnership. In light of current divorce rates, this is a sub-optimal outcome. Informational campaigns should overcome this failure. Also, switching the default rule would be a positive nudge to help people make better decisions.