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Study shows shared child custody agreements increasing in US

Many Maryland residents might assume mothers usually get custody of the children in the aftermath of a divorce. Historically, this has generally been the case. But in recent decades, this trend has been changing. Joint custody and shared custody agreements are now becoming much more common when marriages end. 

Researchers conducted a study with the aim of examining divorce case data from court records. The study found that cases involving minor children between 1986 and 1994 saw a decrease in sole custody awarded to mothers in child custody disputes. Mothers gained sole custody approximately 80 percent of the time in 1986. By 1994, that figure dropped to 74 percent. In addition, the study found that joint custody agreements increased in frequency from 7 percent in 1986 to 14 percent in 1994. 

While the study analyzed older cases, it also studied more recent data from 2008, investigating the results from 9,873 divorce cases involving child custody disputes over minor children. While mother-sole custody awards still maintained the highest percentage of 2008’s child custody agreements at 42 percent, the results for joint custody and shared custody demonstrated significant change. In 1986, equal shared custody agreements only comprised 5 percent of child custody cases, but this percentage grew to 27 percent in 2008. Additionally, unequal shared custody increased from 3 percent in 1986 to 18 percent in 2008, resulting in more equal visitation rights and parenting time for both parents than a sole custody agreement would allow. 

Going through a divorce is always difficult, especially when child custody disputes are involved. Determining the best interests of the child can be difficult, especially when factoring in emotions and possible parental relocations. However, the results of this study prove that, in many cases, courts are realizing that giving increased visitation rights to both parents might actually result in the best situation for the child. These results may give hope to those currently involved in child custody disputes or those seeking an agreement modification.

Source: Headlines & Global News, "Joint Custody Of Children Is Becoming A Norm in US," May 22, 2014

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