Myths About Custodial Fathers.

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University of Wisconsin--Madison. Institute for Research on Poverty.
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Child support in the United States used to be straightforward: mothers were given custody of the children, and fathers, who normally had higher incomes, were ordered to pay child support. The situation may be growing more and more complex, however, as men increasingly receive custody of their children. Daniel R. Meyer, an IRP affiliate, and Steven Garasky, an economist at Iowa State University, have examined current trends in male custody and find that the reality differs in many respects from the common conceptions about custodial fathers. This article is based on their paper exploring the myths about male custody.

Much has been written about the explosion in the number of single mothers and its detrimental effects on children, on economic security, and, indeed, on society. Very little, however, has been written about single fathers. Much has also been written about child support policies, but almost all discussions assume that it is the mothers who have custody of their children and that it is the fathers who are absent. Indeed, the major data source on child support-the Current Population Survey-Child Support Supplement will finally include fathers beginning this year. Meyer and Garasky find that whenever the lack of attention on custodial-father families is mentioned, several reasons are given to explain why they do not need to be studied as extensively as female-headed families. These reasons are no longer valid. Among the myths that Meyer and Garasky dispel are the following: (1) custodial fathers always have high incomes; (2) there are not many custodial fathers; (3) most custodial fathers have remarried; (4) most custodial fathers are widowers, and all were married at some time; and (5) custodial fathers primarily receive custody of older boys. (Author abstract)

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