, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 1381-1396,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 May 2014

Who Gets Custody Now? Dramatic Changes in Children’s Living Arrangements After Divorce

Abstract

This article reexamines the living arrangements of children following their parents’ divorce, using Wisconsin Court Records, updating an analysis that showed relatively small but significant increases in shared custody in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These changes have accelerated markedly in the intervening years: between 1988 and 2008, the proportion of mothers granted sole physical custody fell substantially, the proportion of parents sharing custody increased dramatically, and father–sole custody remained relatively stable. We explore changes in the correlates of alternative custody outcomes, showing that some results from the earlier analysis still hold (for example, cases with higher total family income are more likely to have shared custody), but other differences have lessened (shared-custody cases have become less distinctive as they have become more common). Despite the considerable changes in marriage and divorce patterns over this period, we do not find strong evidence that the changes in custody are related to changes in the characteristics of families experiencing a divorce; rather, changes in custody may be the result of changes in social norms and the process by which custody is determined.