Abstract

Changes in the living arrangements of children have implications for social policy and children’s well-being. Understanding who gets custody on divorce—mother, father, or both sharing custody—can also inform our understanding of family organization and the merits of alternative theories of marriage and divorce. We examine physical-custody outcomes among recent Wisconsin divorces in an effort to understand the factors associated with shared custody as well as mother-sole custody and father-sole custody. Although mother-sole custody remains the dominant arrangement, shared custody has increased over a nine-year period. We find that the probability of shared custody increases with parent’s income. Prior marital history. parents’ ages, the age and gender of children, and the legal process also have an impact on the probability of shared custody. In contrast to shared custody, the probability of father-sole custody decreases with parent’s income, while the relationship with other significant factors is generally similar. The notable exception is that, unlike shared custody, we find no evidence for an increase over time in the probability of father-sole custody. We also find that when the father has a higher proportion of the Couple’s total income, both shared custody and father-sole custody are more likely.

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