Less Divorce

Several studies have showed a significant correlation between joint physical custody and reduced divorce In the U.S. for example, Kuhn and Guidubaldi (1997) compared divorce rate trends in states that encourage joint physical custody with those in states that favour sole custody.  States with high levels of joint physical custody awards (over 30%) in 1989 and 1990 have shown significantly greater declines in divorce rates in following years through 1995, compared with other states.

“Divorce rates declined nearly four times faster in high joint custody, compared with states where joint custody is rare. As a result, the states with high levels of joint physical custody now have significantly lower divorce rates on average than other states. States that favoured sole custody also had more divorces involving children. These findings indicate that public policies promoting sole custody may be contributing to the high divorce rate. Both social and economic factors are considered to explain these results. They concluded that a parent who expects to receive sole custody is more likely to file for divorce than one who may be awarded joint custody is because sole custody allows one parent to hurt the other by taking away the children.”

In other work Brinig & Allen (1998) found a correlation between joint physical custody awards and reduced divorce. They conjectured that fathers are more likely to form strong bonds with their children if they know that the relationship would be protected through joint custody in the event of a divorce. This would reduce the likelihood that fathers would initiate divorce.  

Brinig & Allen (1998) documented that the parent who receives custody is more likely to be the one who files for divorce. That is, among cases where the mother received sole custody, she usually filed for divorce, and where the father received, the father was more likely to be the one who filed. They concluded that filing behaviour is largely driven by attempts to “exploit the other partner through divorce.” They found that custody had a stronger relationship than financial factors, although these factors of course commingled through child support.


Kuhn R & Guidubaldi J. Child Custody Policies and Divorce Rates In The U.S. Paper presented at the 11th Annual Conference of the Children's Rights Council, Washington D.C. (23-26 October 1997). 

Brinig M F & Buckley F H. (1998). Joint Custody: Bonding and Monitoring Theories. Indiana Law Journal 73:393. 

Brinig M F, & Allen D. W (1998). These Boots Are Made For Walking: Why Wives File For Divorce.  Paper presented at the Canadian Law and Economics Association Meeting.

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