Two new studies show that the public in the United States favors equal child custody arrangements for children of divorced parents. The study reflects a changing society that places more emphasis on the shared responsibilities of parents and reflects the growing recognition of fathers' rights. Those who participated in the studies were asked to complete mental exercises where they were the judge deciding a series of hypothetical cases.
The studies were conducted by researchers at Arizona State University. The researchers initially used cite polls and ballot initiatives to determine whether there was enough public support around the idea of equal child custody arrangements. Once it was determined the public supported the idea, researchers asked individuals to participate in a survey where they were the judge for child custody cases.
For example, participants in the study were asked to decide a child custody case where the mother provided the majority of the couple's pre-divorce child care duties. In another hypothetical case, the surveyed individual was told the father provided the majority of the child-raising duties before divorce, and in a third case the individual was told both parents performed roughly half of the child-raising duties before divorce. Most of the time participants indicated equal custody was strongly preferred.
According to the research, the public believes that the current family court system over-awards parenting time to mothers and under-awards parenting time to fathers. As a result the public believes equal custody is the best child custody choice. The lead author of the study said equal custody is not often granted and that decision-makers need to recognize the public's preference against current standards.
Source: PsychCentral, "Public support rising for joint custody," Rick Nauert PHD, 5/3/11