How Is Child Custody Decided?



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Custody arrangements desired by the parents


Mothers want


Fathers want:

Sole possession to mother




Sole possession to father




Joint possession









How is child custody decided?

  • 51% agreed on their own

  • 29% settled without third party involvement

  • 11% decided during mediation

  • 5% resolved differences after a custody evaluation

  • 4% went to trial (of the 4% that initiated litigation, only 1.5% actually completed it)


Child custody outcomes: Mediation and trial


When parents mediate


When parents go to evaluation or trial

Sole possession to mother




Sole possession to father




Joint possession









Where do children initially reside when the parents first separate?

67% of the time they remain with the mother in the marital home.

How prevalent was the single-parent family by the mid-1990s?

  • 7.6 million mothers were raising children without the father

  • 1.3 million fathers were raising children without the mother

Trend: "In 1970, 2.8 million single mothers had custody of their children. By 1994 the figure had almost tripled. The number of fathers with sole custody practically quadrupled during that same time period."


Footnote 1: Child Custody Made Simple, ©1997-2000, Webster Watnik, pages 32-40 — source: "Dividing the Child," Eleanor Maccoby and Robert Mnookin, Harvard University Press, 1992 (study conducted in California). Watnik states that these results are very similar to those in a national study.

Footnote 2: Out of Touch, ©1997, Geoffrey L. Greif, page 4 — source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994.


► List of all Divorce Statistics

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Divorce Statistics - Caring, Concern, Compassion in Relationships
Divorce Statistics - Children and Divorce, Effects of Divorce on Child
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Divorce Statistics - For Those Who Divorce, at What Age Did They Marry?
Divorce Statistics - Household Characteristics, Population, Children
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Divorce Statistics - Michigan Divorce Cases (statewide)
Divorce Statistics - Michigan Divorces, Washtenaw County (MI)
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