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Physical Custody in Wisconsin Divorce Cases, 1980–1992


  • P. Brown
  • M. Melli
  • M. Cancian


This report examines data from the court record of 9,500 Wisconsin divorce cases in twenty-one representative counties for a period of twelve years, from 1980 to 1992, in order to document how child custody is being handled in divorce. We find an increased involvement of fathers with their children after divorce, particularly through joint legal custody (81 percent in 1992), but also in shared physical custody (14 percent in 1992), and in an increase in specific and detailed physical placement awards. We find substantial differences in custody awards related to situations and actors in the divorce process, and wide variations in custody awards between counties. We also find major differences between families who have equal 50/50 time-share and those who have unequal shared-custody arrangements. These two kinds of shared-custody cases have been treated as one type in the research on custody to date, but appear in our data to characterize two quite different kinds of families.

Suggested Citation

  • P. Brown & M. Melli & M. Cancian, "undated". "Physical Custody in Wisconsin Divorce Cases, 1980–1992," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1133-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1133-97

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    Cited by:

    1. Maria Cancian & Daniel Meyer, 1998. "Who gets custody?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(2), pages 147-157, May.

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