Statistics have a lot to tell us about the facts of divorce and child custody.
When you get married and have children, you never know what could happen in the relationship.
Naturally, child custody isn’t always related to marriage. There is a lot more to it than that.
Starting a relationship, having children, and starting a family are collectively one of life’s greatest joys in a healthy relationship.
But what if something goes awry?
These 35 eye-opening child custody statistics will reveal things you may not be able to completely comprehend.
A relationship doesn’t require marriage, or even a long-term, loving or permanent relationship for children to be born.
Any intimate encounter between a male and a female can result in a conception.
How the relationship evolves, and what part each parent decides to play in the child’s life, is a huge decision between the two parties.
Therefore, married or unmarried, if you have a child or children, you need to know the following statistics in case things take a turn for the worse in your relationship.
Let’s find out what the statistics have to uncover in the following paragraphs.
Key Child Custody Statistics 2023
- Approximately 29% of child custody decisions are made without mediators or court hearings.
- The national divorce rate is 7.6 per 1,000 couples in 2022.
- In 2017, the national average paid in child support to custodial parents amounted to $3,431 per year.
- Massachusetts has the highest child support, averaging at $1,187 per month.
- 13 of the 50 states in the United States don’t have to consider the child’s preference in custody cases.
- One study conducted by Custody X Change revealed that 40% of all states in the US try to give equal time with children and both parents.
- In 2017, 21.1% of white children were living with a custodial parent.
- In 2017, 48.8% of Black children (African American) were living with a custodial parent.
- 18.4% of all custodial parents working full time were living below the poverty line in 2017.
- There is an 8% lower probability of a child from divorced parents finishing high school.
Detailed Child Custody Statistics in 2023
This first section of the article will address general, overarching child custody statistics in 2023 that you need to know.
The sections after this one will address more specific statistics regarding child custody.
1. Approximately 29% of Child Custody Decisions Are Made without Mediators or Court Hearings.
This figure means that 29% of the time, child custody is decided before mediation or court hearings are needed.
Only 4% require a judge’s decision in court, and 11% require mediation.
In just over half (51%) of all child custody cases, both parents agree that the mother should retain custodial care of the child (ren).
Finally, 5% of custody cases are determined after a custody evaluation. In general, 91% of child custody decisions don’t need to go to court for a decision.
2. According to The U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017, 4 of Every 5 Mothers Got Custody.
2017 mother vs father custody statistics from the US Census Bureau revealed that 79.9% of custodial parents were mothers.
That is what the 4 out of every 5 figure represents in percentage.
In 2014, the percentage of mothers getting child custody accounted for 5 of every 6 cases, or 82.5%.
This means that custody going to fathers is closing the gap in some custody cases.
3. The National Divorce Rate Is 7.6 per 1,000 Couples in 2022.
In 2019, the divorce rate was only 2.7 per 1,000 couples, which was a decline over a decade when it was 4.7 per 1,000 couples.
Today, we are seeing higher divorce rates in America at 7.6 per 1,000 residents. It’s believed to relate to the pandemic.
The states with the highest divorce rates include Arkansas, at 10.7 per 1,000 couples, and Oklahoma, at 10.4 per 1,000 couples.
Those with the lowest divorce rates include Maine, and DC at 4.8 per 1,000 couples.
4. In 2017, The National Average Paid in Child Support to Custodial Parents Amounted to $3,431 per Year.
That figure represents about $285.92 per month. It also represents a decrease from the 2003 national average of $4,675 per year ($389.58 per month).
Child support national averages have been fluctuating since the 1990s.
If that seems low to you, it is. Most states have their own way of calculating child support, which is usually a percentage of each parents’ income, against what the state considers is needed to raise a child.
This changes not only according to income, but also changes according to how many children are being supported.
5. The United States Census Bureau Claims that There Are 12.9 Million Custodial Parents in America.
As of May 2020, statistics revealed that there were 12.9 million parents with custody of their children. This includes 21.9 million children under the age of 21.
While the report comes from data in 2020, it’s related to 2018 data.
In child custody cases, there is one parent who lives in another residence either close by or in another state, and one parent with whom the child stays for most of the year.
Child Custody by State
Now that we have shared a few general statistics, we can look at specific state-related statistics.
If you live in one of the states we mentioned, you will know what to expect from child custody or child support.
6. Massachusetts Has the Highest Child Support, Averaging at $1,187 per Month.
The national average of $300 per month pales in comparison to Massachusetts’ average child support.
Massachusetts uses the percentage of the obligor’s income. It considers any other child support of the obligor, the gross annual income of the custodial parent, and other costs before it comes to a total.
In contrast, Virginia has the lowest average monthly child support per month, at $402.
Virginia is only six hours south of Massachusetts, yet child support is significantly less. Virginia follows the income shares model.
7. 13 of The 50 States in The United States Don’t Have to Consider the Child’s Preference in Custody Cases.
The other 37 states can consider the child’s preference in certain cases. Judges make the final decision about who gets custody, but in some cases in the 37 that allow for this consideration, judges can do so.
However, if the child is mature enough, the judge is required to consider their preference.
The 13 states that don’t allow judges to consider the child’s preference in their living situations include Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
8. One-Quarter of Tennessee Households Are Run by A Single Father.
In Tennessee, single-father households make up 25% of the state’s total households. This is significant in the overall scheme of things.
Naturally, the other 75% of Tennessee households are made up of two-parent or single mother households.
In 2019, there were a total of 6,506 single father households across the nation. There has since been a rise in this national figure to 6,964 as of 2020.
This may include widowers and people who are divorced.
9. One Study Conducted by Custody X Change Revealed that 40% of All States in The US Try to Give Equal Time with Children and Both Parents.
One of the factors that creates problems between two parents in child custody cases relates to how much time they get to spend with each parent.
Statistics show that 40% of every state in America aims to provide 50/50 time with each parent.
Naturally, there are exceptions for things like parents who are incarcerated and those who live out of state.
Long-distance child custody is also worked out as equally as possible, but they want to avoid impacting the child’s welfare and school attendance.
10. America’s Swing States Offer 59% Equal Visitation Time, and Fathers Have the Most Visitation Time.
If you’re wondering what a “swing state” in the US is, it involves states that have near-equal support for the respective presidential candidates in elections.
So, these are the states that give parents equal time, and fathers the most visitation time compared to other states.
To put this into perspective, 40% of Democratic states give equal time to both parents, compared to 22% of Republican states.
The primary party of a state is not the main reason for their stances on parental time with kids.
Child Support Statistics by Race
This section is specifically for child custody statistics by race.
Overall, it’s less about a person’s race than it is about human nature.
However, let’s briefly discuss it.
11. In 2017, 21.1% of White Children Were Living with A Custodial Parent.
Kids who are predominately white (caucasian) account for 22.7% of all kids living with a custodial parent.
This relates to children under 21 years old, regardless of income level.
12. In 2017, 48.8% of Black Children (african American) Were Living with A Custodial Parent.
African American children represent nearly half of all children living with a custodial parent in America.
This includes those under 21 years old regardless of income level.
13. In 2017, 28.7% of Hispanic Children Were Living with A Custodial Parent.
These statistics were reported in 2018, but were generated from 2017 data.
Hispanic children living with a custodial parent represented around a quarter of all children living with a custodial parent.
Again, this includes those under the age of 21 and regardless of income level.
14. In 2017, Children of All Other Races Accounted for 13.6% of All Children Living with A Custodial Parent.
Other races, which includes a wide range of ethnicities, account for 13.6% of all American children living with their custodial parents.
This includes those under 21 years old and doesn’t relate to income status.
15. 49.4% of Children Living at Poverty Level Were Living with A Custodial Parent in 2017.
Unfortunately, children living in custodial homes make up nearly half (49.4%) of all children living in a custodial home.
There are many reasons for this, but that is for another article.
Child Custody Statistics by Gender
This section will address the factor of who gets custody of the child by gender.
16. In Their 2018 Report, the US Census Bureau Revealed that In 2017, 43.1% of Custodial Fathers and 46.4% of Custodial Mothers Received All of Their Support Payments.
It’s unfortunate that we even have to share statistics that reveal how not even half of all custodial parents, male and female, get their full child support payments.
There are several reasons this can happen, but sometimes it’s because the non-custodial parent just fails to pay.
In 2017, the same report revealed that 38.4% of custodial fathers and 28.7% of custodial mothers did not receive any support payments.
17. Less than Half of Custodial Mothers Were Non-Hispanic White in 2017.
Custodial fathers were more apt to be non-Hispanic custodial parents than mothers, at 62.9%.
Black custodial mothers accounted for 28.1%, while Hispanic custodial mothers represented 24.1%.
18. The Percentage of Custodial Mothers Who Were Never Married Was 40.4% in 2017.
Another difference between custodial parents was that mothers were more likely to have never been married, at 40.4% than those who had been divorced.
The 2017 percentage of custodial mothers who were divorced was 30.1%.
Of all custodial mothers, 16.3% were married during the 2018 report about the 2017 statistics.
The percentages related to those who were separated was 11.9%. Also, 1.3% were widowed.
19. Custodial Fathers Who Had Never Been Married Made up 29.3% of All Custodial Fathers in 2017.
In comparison to custodial mothers who had never been married, at 40.4%, custodial fathers represented 29.3%.
That’s significantly less than mothers. Therefore, there is some contrast between custodial mothers and fathers.
Also, custodial fathers (39.1%) were more apt to be divorced than the percentage of divorced mothers (30.1%).
For more perspective on custodial fathers, 1.8% were widowed, 11.4% were separated, and 18.5% were remarried.
20. In 2018, 41.6% of Custodial Mothers Were 40-Plus Years Old.
According to statistics, the proportion of custodial parents in the over-40 crowd has risen over the past nearly a quarter of a century (24 years).
In 1994, about 25.4% of custodial mothers were among the over-40 demographic.
As for custodial fathers, the percentage of those over 40 was 44.7% in 1994. There was also an increase in these figures where 40-plus custodial fathers accounted for 54.6% by 2018.
21. There Are 2.5 Million Single Custodial Fathers in America.
Fathers getting custody of their children is narrowing the gap related to courts solely favoring the mother in custody cases.
For instance, in the 1960s, there were only 300,000 custodial fathers.
Mothers are still favored in child custody cases, but with more fathers willing to step up to take care of their children, the gap is gradually getting smaller.
If you’re a father willing to take on the responsibility of raising your children, your chances of getting custody are higher now than ever.
22. In 1994, 22.4% of Custodial Mothers Didn’t Complete High School.
The level of education among custodial parents is not usually considered a reason to refuse custody, but it does affect their careers to some extent.
In 1994, only 17.1% of custodial mothers had an associate’s degree.
By 2018, only 13.1% of custodial mothers didn’t complete high school. That’s a vast difference from 1994.
Today, 33.8% of all custodial mothers have an associate’s degree, which is nearly double that of the 1994 statistics.
23. 18.4% of All Custodial Parents Working Full Time Were Living Below the Poverty Line in 2017.
Child custody stats from the Census Bureau reported that 18.4% of custodial parents (mothers and fathers) were living below the poverty line even though they were working a full-time job.
Another 37% were working part-time and living below the poverty line. A shocking 44.6% of this demographic were not working at all.
24. Data from 2017 Revealed that 74.3% of Custodial Fathers Worked Full Time Jobs.
Being a single parent isn’t easy, whether you’re the father or mother. The 2017 statistics show that 74.3% of custodial fathers work at a full-time job. That’s not surprising.
It does make you wonder how they manage to work so hard and still take care of their kids.
A full-time job takes up most of your time, so making time for your kids is challenging if you’re the mom or dad.
25. 51.4% of Custodial Mothers Were Working Full-Time Jobs in 2017.
The US Census Bureau report says that 51.4% of custodial mothers were working at full-time jobs in 2017.
While that’s lower than the custodial father’s percentage, it’s still a significant figure.
Custodial mothers who work full time also have challenges juggling their work and home. This is one of the aspects of work-life balance everyone talks about these days.
The Impact of Child Custody Cases
There is an impact that comes with divorce and child custody cases. That is what we will discuss in this final statistical section of this article.
26. Children of Divorce Are 1.5 to 2 Times More Apt to Live Below Poverty Level.
Not only are children of separation or divorce more apt to live below the poverty line.
They are also more apt to participate in risky sexual behavior when they are older.
The stress and strain of divorce sticks with a child even into their adult years.
For instance, studies have shown that men from divorced families during childhood are at a higher risk of suicide than those whose parents stayed married.
27. There Is a 16% Increase in Risky Behavioral Problems in Children Between 7 and 14 After a Divorce.
The statistics about children of divorce have revealed that adolescents whose parents get divorced experience more accidents, illnesses, and injuries than children where the parents have stayed married.
An old study discovered that teenagers who live with both of their biological parents are healthier than teenagers with divorced parents.
The results of the study said that there is a correlation between teenagers’ well-being and family structure.
28. There Is an 8% Lower Probability of A Child from Divorced Parents Finishing High School.
It’s been researched and revealed that children from divorced homes have an 8% lower probability of finishing high school than children whose parents are not divorced.
This is not a hard and fast rule for children whose parents have divorced. The outcomes could be better than the statistics report.
Also, they are at a 12% lower probability of attending college, and another 11% lower probability of finishing college.
Overall, divorce is associated with negative impacts and outcomes for children.
This doesn’t mean that all children that come from divorced homes are likely to live a negative existence.
29. Some Research Has Shown that Children Will Usually Adjust to Divorce Within a Couple of Years of The Event.
Not every divorce situation is the same. Therefore, not all of these statistics about children of divorce fit every instance. Things are not equally bad for all children of divorce.
With the proper support and encouragement, children can adjust and live their best lives even after a divorce.
It has much to do with how parents handle things, which ultimately affects the child’s experience.
30. In 2019, The Divorce Rate in America Fell to 14.9 out Of Every 1,000 Marriages Ending in Divorce.
This statistic represents a record low in divorce in 2019. This data comes from the Institute of Family Studies in 2020.
The idea of lower divorce rates means people are staying married longer.
Between 2010 and 2019, the overall divorce rate accounted for 19.8 out of 1,000 marriages.
It’s believed that the lower divorce rate is related to the pandemic, even though early studies suggested that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns should have advanced divorces.
What Are the Factors Considered in Determining the Best Interest of The Child?
Judges must use 12 factors to determine what’s in the best interest of the child.
While not all 12 elements are required, the judge will base things on either the burden of proof or the preponderance of the evidence presented in court.
The 12 factors include:
1. Love and affection
2. Religious upbringing
3. The ability to provide
4. The stability of the home environment
5. Permanent family home
6. Moral compass of the parents
7. Parental health (mental and physical)
9. School attendance and record
9. Child’s preference (not in all states)
Do Judges Always Side with The Mother?
No. The judges don’t always side with the mother in custody cases.
While mothers are still getting custody more often than fathers, judges weigh the “best interest” of the child.
Often, there is already a mutual agreement between the parents for the mother to get custody. That’s mostly why it seems like the courts side with the mother.
Do Judges Always Agree with Mediators?
This is a misconception about child custody. The judge isn’t always going to agree with the mediator, or use their recommendations.
Judges are in charge, and are going to make their decisions based on evidence when there is no other agreement between the parents.
Can a Father Get Custody of Their Child?
Of course a father can get custody of their child or children. There is no law that states the mother always gets custody.
It’s just usually something the parties agree on before a court hearing. Oftentimes, they agree, which avoids a court trial.
When a father wants to step up and take responsibility, and is more capable of taking care of the children, the judge can rule in his favor.
It’s all about the best interest of the child, and sometimes the child’s preferences.
Is the Mother or The Father More Likely to Win Custody?
Nowadays, it’s less about the gender of the parent than it is about what’s best for the child or children.
While mothers have been favored over the years, that is not always the case today. Fathers are getting custody more often today than in years past.
Just a few years ago, mothers were considered for custody more favorably than fathers because they were the primary caregivers.
Fathers usually work outside the home and have long work days, making it challenging to properly care for the children.
That said, statistics are showing that fathers are closing the gap between mother and father custody battles.
Hopefully, these mother vs father custody statistics have enlightened you as to how these cases are decided today. More fathers are getting custody today than just a decade ago.
Though mothers are still considered more often than fathers, it’s mostly because the parents have reached a mutual agreement that the mother should have custody.
Not only do they avoid a full-blown trial, they are more likely to work together.
Every child custody case is different. Therefore, outcomes will be different.
When the parents don’t or can’t come to an agreement about custody of the children, a mediator can help make recommendations.
If the parents come to an agreement via the mediator, they can avoid trial. If mediation doesn’t help them come to an agreement, then the judge will decide for them in court.
Whether you’ve been through a child custody case, or you’re considering divorce, these child custody statistics in 2023 should be helpful to you.