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)

Frequency of Contact with the Non-custodial Parent by Type of Child Support Agreement and Regularity of Payments

Table 15 provides evidence that the frequency of contact with the non-custodial parent is associated with the type of child support agreement that was reached. Private child support agreements were associated with more frequent contacts between children and their non-custodial parent than all other types of arrangements (including no agreement). They were associated with higher proportions of children living with their fathers either full time or part time (18 percent) or visiting their fathers on a weekly basis (44 percent), and with a much smaller number of cases (4 percent) where there was no contact with the non-custodial parent.


Table 15: Type of Contact Maintained with Fathers at Time of Separation, According to the Nature of Child Support Agreement--NLSCY, Cycle 1, 1994-1995
  Lives with Father Does Not Live with Father    
Child Support Agreement Full-time Part-time Never Visits Irregular Visits Visits Every 2 Weeks Weekly Visits Total N 1
Private 6.5 11.0 3.7 19.8 15.0 44.0 100.0 1019
Court order 3.2 1.8 17.4 32.0 23.3 22.3 100.0 897
Court order in progress 6.1 3.9 14.0 28.6 20.5 27.0 100.0 267
No agreement 11.6 6.6 23.8 22.3 10.4 25.3 100.0 1053

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

Figure 14 reveals the close association between regularity of payments and frequency of visits. Among children living with their mother, and for whom child support payments were regular and on time, close to half (48 percent) visited their father on a weekly basis, while only 7 percent never saw him. In comparison, fathers who did not provide financially for their children on a regular basis had fewer contacts with them. Only 15 percent of children whose father had not provided child support payments in the last six months saw their father weekly and 28 percent never saw him.

Figure 14: Visiting Patterns with Father, for Children Living with Mother at Time of Separation, According to Regularity of Child Support Payments--NLSCY 1994-1995

Figure 14 : Visiting Patterns with Father, for Children Living with Mother at Time of Separation, According to Regularity of Child Support Payments--NLSCY 1994-1995

[ Description ]

A multinomial logistic regression was run to examine the impact of both the type of child support agreement and the regularity of payments on the likelihood of fathers to maintain contact with their children, while controlling for other variables, such as the nature of the broken union. The results presented in Tables 16 and 17 predict the propensity of fathers to maintain regular or irregular contacts with their children, as opposed to having no contact with them.

Table 16 reveals a close association between the type of child support agreement and the frequency of visits. Among all children living with their mother, the existence of a court-ordered agreement multiplies by 2 to 3 the probability of fathers to maintain either irregular or regular contact with their children. The conclusion of a private agreement exerts an even stronger effect: it multiplies by more than 10 the likelihood of fathers to see their children on a regular basis, as opposed to not seeing them.

Table 16: Impact of Given Variables on the Propensity of Fathers to Maintain Contact with Their Children--NLSCY, Cycle 1, 1994-1995
(Multinomial Logistic Regression Coefficients) 1

Child support
Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular
No agreement 1.000 1.000
Court-ordered agreement 2.988 *** 2.312 ***
Private agreement 10.688 *** 5.762 ***

Custody
Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular
Not submitted to court 1.000 1.000
Court-ordered agreement 0.433 *** 0.495 ***
Court order in progress 0.555 * 0.838

Type of union
Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular
Marriage 1.000 1.000
Common-law union 0.516 *** 0.472 ***

Degree of tension
Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular
Very little or none 1.000 1.000
Great or some tension 1.746 *** 2.213 ***

Time elapsed since separation
Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular
0-1 year 1.000 1.000
2-4 years 0.380 *** 0.614 **
5 + years 0.268 *** 0.788

Other things being equal, children whose parents said they had a custody court order appeared less likely to visit their father on a regular or irregular basis than those who were not covered by a court order. The degree of tension between the parents surrounding access and visitation was also found to significantly influence the propensity of fathers to maintain contact with their children. At first, it is surprising to find that fathers appeared more likely to keep contact with their children when some tension existed between the parents. But this might be due to the fact that in situations where children have completely lost contact with their father, obviously no tension is reported about living arrangements or visitation. The probability that a father would maintain contact tended to decrease as the time since separation increased, while children born to common-law couples had a much lower likelihood of visiting their father on a regular or irregular basis than those born to married parents.

Table 17: Impact of the Regularity of Payments and of Other Variables on the Propensity of Fathers to Maintain Contact with Their Children, for Those Covered by a Support Agreement--NLSCY, Cycle 1, 1994-1995
(Multinomial Logistic Regression Coefficients) 1

Child support
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
Court-ordered agreement 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Private agreement 2,392 *** 2,058 ** 1,811 * 1,885 *

Custody
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
Not submitted to court 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Court-ordered agreement 0,223 *** 0,417 ** 0,214 *** 0,398 ***
Court order in progress 0,700 1,067 0,684 1,098

Regularity of payments
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
None for at least 6 months     1,000 1,000
Regular payments     6,386 *** 1,861 **
Irregular payments     6,434 *** 2,918 ***

Type of union
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
Marriage 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Common-law union 0,564 ** 0,493 *** 0,868 0,610 *

Degree of tension
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
Very little or none 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Great or some tension 1,004 *** 1,447 0,990 1,383

Time elapsed since separation
  Frequency of Visits with Father (None)
Variables 2 Regular Irregular Regular Irregular
0-1 year 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
2-4 years 0,242 *** 0,486 * 0,175 *** 0,380 **
5 + years 0,245 *** 0,733 0,253 *** 0,731

Information on the regularity of child support payments was collected only from parents declaring that an agreement (either private or court-ordered) existed concerning child support. For those children covered by a child support agreement, the effect that the type of agreement exerts on the frequency of visits is first examined in the first two columns of Table 17; the next two columns add the impact of the regularity of support payments. The regularity of payments appears strongly related to the likelihood of fathers maintaining frequent contact with their children, and the impact of this variable remains important even after controlling for the type of custody and child support arrangements, the type of union, the level of tension between parents, and the time elapsed since separation. As can be seen in Table 17, fathers who made some payment, whether regularly or irregularly, were significantly more likely to see their children. Regular payments multiplied by 6.39 the chances that a father would see his children on a regular basis, compared to cases where no payment had been made in the last six months. Fathers who provided payments on an irregular basis were also significantly more likely to visit their children, either regularly or occasionally, than fathers who had not made a support payment in the last six months.

Interestingly, the introduction of the regularity of payments into the analysis did not greatly alter the effect of the other variables, with the exception of the degree of tension (which was no longer significant) and of the type of union. When controlling for the regularity of child support payments, children born to common-law parents no longer appeared less likely to see their father on a regular basis than those born to married parents. This result suggests that part of the effect attributed to the type of union is in fact due to the lower propensity of common-law fathers to pay child support, which in turn is directly linked to the frequency of visits.

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