Findings of Gender Bias Task Force of Texas re: Child Custody/Support


Posted by Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy, Oklahoma State University

Determinants of Child Custody Arrangements at Divorce

By Greer Litton Fox and Robert F. Kelly. _Journal of Marriage and the Family_ Vol. 57, August 1995, pp. 693-708

Using a dataset consisting of 509 cases from a census of a large Michigan court's divorces involving minor children filed in the early 1980s, the authors model the likelihood that mothers versus fathers will receive sole physical custody in final judgments. Substantial gender differences in the effects of socioeconomic and legal process variables on custody outcomes are found. The odds of father custody are enhanced when children are older, especially when the oldest child is male, when the father is the plaintiff, and when a court investigation has occurred during divorce proceedings. Odds of father custody are reduced by higher education level for mothers, higher income for fathers, paternal unemployment, and support arrearages prior to final divorce judgments.
Source: Abstract

Comment: Readers are cautioned about the limitations on causal inferences based on correlational findings (statistical "determinants" of variation in custody awards by sex).

Also see:

Wendy Reiboldt and Sharon Seiling. "Factors Related to Men's Award of Custody." _Family Advocate_ publ. by the Family Law Section of the American Bar Associationş Vol. 15 (40 (Winter 1993), pp. 42-43.


Ref: ul-lana

Posted by Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy, Oklahoma State University

Is one parent enough?

Despite its many weaknesses, the nuclear family is a pretty good system for making sure that parents invest in their children and that children obey their parents, write Sara Mc Lanahan and Gary Sandefur in _Growing Up With a Single Parent_, published by Harvard University Press in 1994.

When two biological parents share the same household, they can monitor the children and maintain parental control. But just as important, the parents also can monitor one another and make sure the other parent is behaving in appropriate ways.

Having another parent around who cares about the child increases the likelihood that each parent will "do the right thing" even when otherwise inclined. In short, the two-parent family structure creates a system of checks and balances that both promotes parental responsibility and protects the child from parental neglect and, sometimes, abuse.

By contrast, parental authority is likely to remain weak in a one-parent family, since monitoring is much more difficult for one parent than for two. And parental affection and warmth is also likely to be below average, since the mother must fill two roles instead of one and is likely to be under considerable stress.

Entry of a new mate into the family system (whether through cohabitation or remarriage) produces another disruption for the child, and possible new conflicts. Stepfathers are also less likely to be committed to the child's welfare than biological fathers, and they are less likely to serve as a check on the mother's behavior. Rather than assisting with the responsibilities of parenting, stepfathers sometimes compete with the child for the mother's time, adding to the mother's and the child's level of stress. Even when a stepfather tries to play an active role in parenting, his efforts may be rejected or undermined by the mother because she is reluctant to share authority or because she does not trust his judgment.

From Chapter 2: How Father Absence Lowers Children's Well-Being

Sender: DATA on custody types

According to NCHS data on divorces from a large number of states, the wife was awarded custody of the children 72% of the time in 1990. Joint custody was the second most common arrangement with 16%, while husbands were awarded custody in 9% (Clarke 1995, 5; also see Bahr et al. 1994).

Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy
Oklahoma State University


Bahr, Stephen, Jerry Howe, Meggin Morrill Mann, and Matthew Bahr. 1994. "Trends in Child Custody Awards: Has the Removal of Maternal Preference Made a Difference?" Family Law Quarterly 28(2)(Summer).

Clarke Sally C. 1995. "Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1989 and 1990." Monthly Vital Statistics Report 43(8)(suppl.) Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).


Ref: cc-lit.rev

Custody, visitation, and financial child support: Note on social science research on case dispositions

Given the importance of the issues it is surprising that so few empirical studies of judicial decisionmaking in family law cases have been published (Fox and Kelly 1995).

They are typically based on samples/censuses of either divorces (e.g. Crowe 1994, Bahr et al 1994) or of paternity cases (e.g. Meyer 1995). There is as yet no comparable data-set that combines the two case types and includes a similar array of variables, thus allowing for comparisons. In part this reflects the age of the data most studies are based on (mostly from the 1980's) and the historically different treatment of paternity cases by the law.

Many extant studies also tend to be issue-specific in that they either focus on custody decisions (e.g. Bahr et al 1994, Fox and Kelly), or on application of, and deviation from, child support guidelines (Arnaudo 1994), rather than combining both. Studies of custody outcomes typically use a very simple operationalizations and rarely gauge extent and nature of visitation arrangements.

Moreover, as Fox and Kelly (1995) note in their own study of determinants of child custody arrangements at divorce, except for Maccoby and Mnookin (1992), researchers have not paid adequate attention to legal process variables although these have strong effects on case outcomes. They, too, point out that, with a few notable exceptions (Seltzer 1990, Teachman & Polonko 1990) "we lack well-controlled studies of representative samples of divorces that analyze the determinants of custodial outcomes" (1995, 693).

Much less do we have well-controlled studies that allow for a comparative examination of divorce and paternity cases on a range of issues, including custody type, time-share arrangement, and child support. None of the empirical studies of children and divorce attempts to assess the impact of judge-specific factors on case disposition both in the areas of child support and co- parenting. Nor do any studies systematically examine the impact of statutory guidelines on judicial disposition of coparenting/ time-share and child support issues were such guidelines are in force for both financial and nonfinancial aspects of the parental support obligation.

Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy
Oklahoma State University


Arnaudo, David. 1994. "Deviation From State Child Support Guidelines." In: OCSE. Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation Edited by Margaret Campbell Haynes, Center on Children and the Law, American Bar Association. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) (April 1994):85-94.

Bahr, Stephen, Jerry Howe, Meggin Morrill Mann, and Matthew Bahr. 1994. "Trends in Child Custody Awards: Has the Removal of Maternal Preference Made a Difference?" Family Law Quarterly 28(2)(Summer).

Crowe, Nancy. "Gender and Asset Settlements in Divorce Proceedings." Law and Courts "Newsletter of the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association." 4(3)7-16.

Fox, Greer Litton, and Robert F. Kelly. 1995. "Determinants of Child Custody Arrangements at Divorce." Journal of Marriage and the Family 57:693- 708.

Goldstein, Jacob and Abraham C. Fenster. 1994. "Anglo-American Criteria for Resolving Child Custody Disputes From the Eighteenth Century to the Present: Reflections on the Role of Socio-Cultural Change." Journal of Family History 19(1):35-56.

Maccoby, Eleanor, and Robert Mnookin. 1992. Dividing the Child: Social and Legal Dilemmas of Custody. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Meyer, Daniel R.. 1995. "Supporting Children Born Outside of Marriage: Do Child Support Awards Keep Pace With Changes in Fathers' Incomes." Social Science Quarterly 76(3):577-593.

Seltzer, Judith A. 1990. "Legal and Physical Custody Arrangements in Recent Divorces." Social Science Quarterly 71:250-266.


---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Mon, 30 Sep 1996 14:12:23 -0500 (CDT)
To: Family Law List - WU

Findings from the judicial and attorney attitude surveys which were part of the fact-finding (and complaints-collection) by the Gender Bias Task Force of Texas:

Half of the male attorneys who responded to the Attorney Survey questions regarding custody felt that sole managing conservatorship is frequently based on the assumption that children belong with their mothers, while an additional third believe that this happens "sometimes." Less than one-quarter believe that judges frequently give fair and serious consideration to fathers seeking sole managing conservatorship of their children.

Many female attorneys who responded to the Attorney Survey agreed with the male respondent that fathers have a disadvantage in terms of being awarded custody. Almost three-quarters said that sole managing conservatorship is at least sometimes based on the assumption that children belong with their mothers, with one-third saying that this happens frequently. Almost two-thirds of the women attorneys do not think that judges frequently give fair and serious consideration to fathers who seek sole managing conservatorship of their children.

In contrast to the opinions of both male and female attorneys, most judges responding to the Judicial Attitudes Survey do not feel that there is bias toward automatically awarding conservatorship of children to the mother: only 11 percent of male judges and 5 percent of female judges agreed with the statement that sole managing conservatorship of the children should, in general, be awarded to the mother.

Source: Final Report, Chapter 5

Note: custody is called managing conservatorship (MC) in Texas. Texas now has a presumption of joint custody (meaning JMC is the default and presumptively in the child's best interest). Domicile is either fixed by the court or the right to establish domicile and primary residence is given to one of the two JMCs); Joint custody does not mean equal time-share; nor does it necessarily affect child support although in some cases of equal time-share none may be ordered.

It is also relevant that in Texas teenagers can pick one parent as primary custodian (over the objection of the other parent) in written filing with the court. This appears to increases the father-custody rate for older kids.

Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy
Oklahoma State University


---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 20:51:50 -0500
To: Multiple recipients of list

Findings of Gender Bias Task Force of Texas

Follow-up to earlier post re: judicial disposition of major issues in suits affecting the parent-child relationship.

Note: I have deleted everything but the sections dealing with child support, child custody and the juvenile system. The URL for the complete Findings (not the report itself) is given at the bottom of this message.

A note of caution: The report is a product of a political process, not an academic study, although empirical research was one component of the exercise.

Dr. Wolfgang Hirczy
Oklahoma State University




> 1. Gender stereotype negatively affect the ability of fathers toobtain sole managing conservatorship of their children.
> 2. Gender stereotypes negatively affect the ability of noncustodial fathers to remain involved in their children's lives.
> 3. Women often are held to higher standards than men in custody disputes.
> 4. Women face financial barriers in pursuing custody litigation.


> > 1. Custodial fathers receive disproportionately lower child support than custodial mothers.
> 2. Many noncustodial parents feel that child-support awards are too harshly enforced, while many custodial parents feel that child-support awards are inadequately enforced.
> 3. Women have inadequate access to the judicial system when child support is unpaid.


> > 1. Male juveniles are generally treated more harshly than female juveniles, particularly in terms of placement.
> 2. Female juveniles are held accountable to behaviors (i.e. status offenses) that are less likely to be considered serious when committed by male juveniles.
> 3. Many Texas communities lack facilities for female juvenile offenders.

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

> Copyright 1994, 1995 by Daniel Diebolt

> last updated 1-10-95


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