Lay Judgements About Child Custody After Divorce

Sanford L. Braver and his associates have done it again. A psychologist at Arizona State University, he seems to be doing the most cutting edge and controversial divorce research today. He has been villified by certain factions in the divorce wars. Wonder what his newest research will provoke? In this study, Braver, et al, examined lay people’s judgements about how child custody should be resolved after divorce. The sample was a group of citizens of Pima Couty AZ. Surprisingly, both male and female respondents would commonly award “shared custody arrangements” if they were a judge.  When there was disproportionate pre-divorce child care, the preference shifted slightly toward the parent who provided most of that care (consistent with the American Law Institute Approximation Rule). When respondents were questioned what they thought the court would actually rule, they said shared custody considerably less often. Respondents maintained their views even in the presence of conflict between parents,  when parents were equally to blame, but less time to the parent found culpable, if only one was primary instigator. 

The authors end the study noting that family law has a “public relations problem”; namely, the differences between public affirmations of shared custody and, “based on past findings that the system is seriously slanted toward mothers,” the  Court’s tendency to “underaward parenting time to fathers.”

This study will undoubtedly set off a fire storm of response.  Need to look more closely at the methodology.

Source: Braver, S. L., Ellman, I.M., Votruba, A.M., & Fabricius, W.V. (2011). Lay judgements about child custody after divorce. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 17, 212-240.


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