Study Public Support Grows For Joint Child Custody

Two new studies indicate that public opinion increasingly favors the decision of parents to share equal child custody after a divorce. Surveys showed that people had a strong preference for dividing parenting time equally between a mother and father after being presented with a series of hypothetical cases.

The survey responders also believed that equally divided parenting time was appropriate even for situations where the parents had a lot of conflict for which both parents were equally to blame, PsychCentral reports.

“The striking degree to which the public favors equal custody combined with their view that the current court system under-awards parenting time to fathers could account for past findings that the system is seriously slanted toward mothers,” a study author said.

PsychCentral reports that there is widespread belief that the legal system imposes custody awards that are more favorable to mothers than the survey responders believe appropriate.

The first study presented survey responders with three hypothetical child custody cases and asked the responders to imagine that they were a judge deciding the cases. In the first case the mother provided 75 percent of the couple’s pre-divorce child care. In the second case the father provided 75 percent of the couple’s pre-divorce child care, and in the last case the parents gave equal amounts of pre-divorce child care. Most of the survey participants preferred equal custody across all of the cases.

“Decision-makers need to recognize the widespread opposition to the current standards that award equal custody only rarely,” a researcher said. “If they think those standards are nonetheless necessary, they need to be more active in defending and justifying their preferences to the public.”

Source: PsychCentral, “Public Support Rising for Joint Custody,” Rick Nauert, 5/3/11