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Does Joint Legal Custody Increase the Child Support Payments of the Fathers of Nonmarital Children?

Historically, children born outside marriage had little relationship with their nonresident father; they lived with their mother, and she made decisions about their care. One policy effort intended to improve the relationship between nonresident fathers and their children is joint legal custody, which formally requires that decision-making for the child be shared between fathers and mothers. In 1999, Wisconsin enacted presumptive joint legal custody, that is, legal custody is to be awarded to both parents unless there is evidence supporting a different arrangement. Joint legal custody could increase the connection between nonresident fathers and their children, which could lead to an increase in child support payments. In this paper we examine this question: is joint legal custody associated with increases in child support payments and compliance (payment as a proportion of order amount) among paternity cases in which children are placed with their mother?


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Custody & Placement, Orders & Payments


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