Custody, Access and Child Support: Findings from The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth

III - WHEN PARENTS SEPARATE: CANADIAN CHILDREN FROM BROKEN FAMILIES AND THE LAW (continued)

Custody

As we will see below, both the level of contact maintained with the non-custodial parent and the regularity of child support payments were linked to the existence of a court order dealing with these issues. Before examining the data on these points, however, we will first look at who received custody of the children and the type of contact that was maintained with the non-custodial parent in those cases where the parents said they had a court order.

Table 6: Court-Ordered Custody Arrangements, According to the Region, the Age of the Child at Separation and the Type of Broken Union--NLSCY, Cycle 1, 1994-1995

Regions
Mother Exclusive Custody Father Exclusive Custody Shared Physical Custody Other Total N 1
Canada 79.3 6.6 12.8 1.2 100.0 1239
Atlantic Provinces 74.5 7.2 16.9 1.4 100.0 111
Quebec 87.4 7.2 5.5 0.0 100.0 241
Ontario 76.1 6.8 15.9 1.2 100.0 483
Prairies 78.3 5.3 13.5 2.9 100.0 222
British Columbia 81.4 6.5 11.3 0.8 100.0 182

Age of child at separation
Mother Exclusive Custody Father Exclusive Custody Shared Physical Custody Other Total N
0-5 years 80.6 6.0 12.4 1.1 100.0 1046
6-11 years 74.0 8.1 15.7 2.1 100.0 187

Type of broken union
Mother Exclusive Custody Father Exclusive Custody Shared Physical Custody Other Total N
Common-law 84.1 6.2 8.7 1.0 100.0 328
Marriage, common-law before 74.3 7.9 16.8 0.9 100.0 489
Marriage, no common-law before 82.0 5.3 10.9 1.8 100.0 409

1. N = Weighted data brought back to the original sample size.

The results of Table 6 confirm what is known based on other data sources: after separation mothers were given custody of the children in the overwhelming proportion of cases. In Canada as a whole, close to 80 percent of children under the age of 12 were placed in their mothers' custody in cases where a court order existed. Almost 7 percent were placed in their fathers' custody, and for 13 percent of children, a shared custody arrangement was established.

These proportions change according to the age of the children at the time of separation. Older children are more likely to be placed in their father's care or in joint custody arrangements. Among children aged 6 to 11, one child in four was entrusted to the father's care, either exclusively (8 percent) or jointly with the mother (16 percent). Among children under 6 years of age, only 18 percent were in the custody of the father or in joint custody. Finally, children from broken common-law unions (84 percent), as well as children from Quebec (87 percent), were most likely to remain in the custody of their mother, and there is possibly a link between these two results.

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