Family Law Blog

Shared Custody of Children on the Increase

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fewer child custody arrangements these days involve the mother getting sole custody of the child. In an increasing number of cases, parents are settling for joint or shared custody of their children.

According to a new study which analyzed Wisconsin Court Records between 1988 and 2008, the number of mothers who were awarded sole custody of their children after divorce, dropped dramatically from 8% to 42%. During the same period of time, there was a significant increase in the number of joint custody arrangements.

Equal shared custody arrangements during the same time increased from 5% to 37%, and unequal custody increased from 3% to 18%. There was little difference in the proportion of cases that involved father-only sole custody. These cases hovered at approximately 10%.

The study's findings may be slightly misleading. They don't seem to cover children born into single-parent households. About 45% of American babies are currently born to unmarried mothers. The study only included those families that were split up after divorce.

In a shared custody arrangement, the parents decide to share medical, legal, financial, and other decisions involving the child. Physical custody of the child may be split approximately 50/50. It is not possible to accurately divide the amount of time that the child spends with each parent.

But the study does seem to confirm that it is no longer a given that the mother will be granted sole custody of the children during a divorce. Joint custody is far moving towards the center, and in the future could actually be considered the norm. For decades, mothers were awarded sole custody, because of the general belief that they were better caretakers. In recent years, the interests of the children have taken the forefront during proceedings to determine the outcomes of such disputes, and those interests very often involve time spent with both parents equally.