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Shared Placement: An Overview of Prevalence, Trends, Economic Implications, and Impacts on Child Well-Being

Divorce rates have increased dramatically since the 1960s, reaching their highest rate in the 1980s and since stabilizing. Over the course of this period, there have been major changes in law and practice around marital dissolution, with implications for parental roles in custody arrangements and financial responsibility. In this report, the author reviews existing research conducted in Wisconsin and elsewhere, in order to examine trends, patterns, and implications of shared placement custody arrangements.

The author finds compelling evidence of rapid and continuing growth in shared placement in Wisconsin with the suggestion of similar patterns across the country. Despite this growth, we know very little about how to assess economic well-being in the context of shared placement. The little existing research suggests that children’s economic well-being does not generally change substantially under shared placement relative to traditional mother placement arrangements, although children on average do seem to fare somewhat worse in one of their homes than they would under sole-mother placement. Existing research also provides little evidence that shared placement is worse for overall child well-being than sole-mother placement, and at least some evidence that it is better. Overall the evidence offers reason to be cautiously optimistic about shared placement as used, while leaving many unanswered questions. The report calls for more nationwide data on shared placement, and rigorous studies that make stronger causal links between placement type and family economic and child well-being.


Child Development & Well-Being, Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Children, Custody & Placement


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