Updated U.S. Custody and Child Support Data (2009)

This is an update of the data I posted in August last year.  See the previous page for details on where the data through 2007 came from.  I added 2009 data from the report here and updated the charts.  The basic narrative is unchanged:

It starts with who is granted custody:

For those few fathers granted custody, they are less likely than mothers who are granted custody to be awarded support:

For those few fathers who are awarded support, they are awarded less on average than mothers who are awarded support:

In the past the system was also biased against fathers in the percent owed which was collected.  This looks to be a wash now:

However due to bias in amount awarded, the average amount received by fathers is still lower:

As a result of all of these biases against fathers, the percentage of all child support dollars paid is extremely biased:

The 2009 data seems to confirm that the 2007 data was an anomaly, and didn’t represent a trend towards slightly less bias against fathers regarding total dollars received.  My best guess is the 2007 anomaly was due to sampling error, because the change in the population of parents receiving support shouldn’t be great over such short time periods.

Here is the excel version of the spreadsheet I used to create the charts.  The original spreadsheet is from Libre Office so there may be some artifacts from the conversion.  As always, please let me know if you find any errors in my calculations.

See Also:  The child support catastrophe

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33 Responses to Updated U.S. Custody and Child Support Data (2009)

  1. Paul says:

    It’s interesting to note how both sexes generally receive considerably less than the amount of support owed. It is my understanding that in most jurisdictions the penalties for failure to pay are quite harsh, including loss of driver’s licence up to incarceration. The follow-up chart I’d like to see would be incarceration rates (or other penalty actually administered) by sex for failure to make support payments.

    Another thing that would be interesting, were the info available, would be a breakdown of the percentage of support payments calculated based on imputed revenue vs. actual revenue, by sex. I would be especially curious to see if there was a notable impact of the ‘mancession’ here.

  2. okrahead says:

    Three years ago a friend of mine from church went through a brutal divorce when his wife decided being gang-banged by the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker while her husband was off at work was her pathway to true happiness. The unhappy couple had one happy child, who was under the age of two. During the divorce proceedings the wife/mother advised the court that she did NOT want custody of the child (taking care of a toddler would have imposed on her new lifestyle of swinging and being a stripper… no, I am not kidding). Nevertheless, the (female) “family court” judge tried to award her custody. In our state, by law, the custodial parent in a divorce must complete a “parenting course” conducted by the state DHS. In order to avoid custody, the wife/mother refused to take the class. Mind you, throughout all of this, my friend was adamant that he DID wish to have custody of his son, and demonstrated both family stability (his parents were helping) and financial stability to provide for his child. In spite of all of this, the family court judge STILL wanted to award custody to the mother. Only when the wife/mother REFUSED to take custody of the child did the judge very reluctantly award custody to my friend, the child’s father. Even then, the judge intentionally left the custody issue open to further appeal by the wife/mother should she change her mind at a future date. In addition, although the wife/mother abandoned the marriage and her child, she was given no order to provide and child support whatsoever. My friend did not appeal this decision, however, since he was simply happy to have custody of his child and not be ordered to pay alimony. A very jagged little red pill indeed.

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  4. It’s interesting to note how both sexes generally receive considerably less than the amount of support owed
    I dont find that interesting at all, with 91% vs 9%, its so skewed that its not even conversationally credible to make the point that both receive less. Maybe you didnt intend that that way but its a seeming bad attempt at equivocation, forgive me if I misread.

    Yesterday I had an issue with my bank account and was at the bank where they handed me an account summary. I saw an entry where over $8000 was taken out in one transaction, labeled Child Support. I dont have child support, Im still married to the mother of my kids, and have no other kids out there. It was oddly funny and alarming at the same time, hell these days though i realize one couldnt just pop into your account and take money, you really never know what kind of convoluted crap a family judge cooks up, some woman I knew 25 years ago shows up and says she was robbed of child support….anyway, none of that was the case and the whole thing was a massive bank snafu, but goodness, I can’t escape that crap and Im not even divorced.

  5. Rock Throwing Peasant says:

    Next week, I will have a followup custody meeting. The therapist my wife selected is drafting a letter in support of me getting increased custody and lifting the stipulation of supervised visitation for my oldest son.
    I won’t be around to update. I have the boys for the week and we’re staying at my parents’ farm for a week of fishing, shooting soda/beer cans (bee bee guns), shagging flys, and swimming.
    The system aided my wife’s desire to destroy our family. I wish I could help others by giving pointers on how to gain greater paternal rights, but as I stated – my wife has untreated mental illness. She’s her own worst witness. So, in some ways, I just sat back and watched as she gave conflicting accounts and shrieked “ABUSE” one day and asked me to take both boys on days not normally set aside for me. Still, the system bent over backward to help her and threw its entire weight against me. It’s too easy to exploit and the government officials have zero accountability.
    It’s absurd and sad. My sons will never have the intact mom-dad family. I can’t stop her from divorcing me and splitting our family, even though the only thing she can allege is unspecified “mental abuse.” She needs help, no B/S mental health intervention. She needs a system that doesn’t allow for a no-fault divorce and makes people commit to oaths they took with clear minds and for others to butt the hell out. She needs a life preserver and her fellow women threw her an anchor.
    Here’s hoping I get at least 40% custody of the oldest next week and a step-path of increased days, leading to joint custody. Gaining increased custody while a Protection From Abuse order (PFA) is in place should tell any reader just how broken the PFA system is in this country.

  6. Rock Throwing Peasant says:

    PS Dalrock, I’m also in moderation. May be the bug you were talking about earlier. If not, its cool.

    [D: Maybe you used a new email? If so, it will work fine from here on out now that I have approved it. I double checked and your IP isn’t on my mod list.]

  7. AJ Miller says:


    I think that a woman who abandons her children is the lowest life form on this planet. Yet I keep reading more and more apologetics from the MSM defending women that are doing this and trying to convince the public to understand them.

    A woman who does this can never be trusted in anything. Ultimately she will die a lonely death while choking on her own vomit with no one there to watch for her or even care.

  8. Paul says:

    Empath, I was referring to the % of child support due vs. actually received, which as Dalrock notes is essentially a wash. In other words, those few moms that actually owe child support are in arrears essentially as much as the men are.

    I was interested in how the consequences for this in the system were applied, given how heavy they were, i.e. I’ve heard stats of the number of guys in prison for failure to provide child support on time, but never for women, does it exist at all, and if so at what rate? I know what I think the answer is, doesn’t exist at all, but I’m a numbers guy and want to know them, if they exist.

    I was also curious to see how the amount owed was calculated. I have heard many stories about how guys lose jobs/income, yet are ordered to maintain payments at the same level, or see their payments based not on their actual income but a value imputed by the courts. It would be interesting to see how many payment amounts are based on actual vs. imputed amounts, because it appears to me that the imputed amounts are invariably higher than actuals. Thus if proportionately more payments for men are based on imputed amounts, for example, then the fact that they’re paying less than the ordered amount has more to do with being forced to pay more than they actually have vs. the dead-bead-dad meme so popular in the media and political circles. And that if this not so much the case with moms, than the reality is a dead-beat mom problem that is being completely ignored. Injustice compounding injustice. I would expect that to be the case, but my expectations aren’t data.

  9. Paul says:

    A good dad loses custody for being obese, kids being put up for adoption, unreal, I too loathe Children’s Aid, they have brought more harm to children then they have ever spared, if any.

    Speaking of double-standards out there, could you imagine if this standard was applied to women? The numbers alone would be staggering.


  10. GhostShip says:

    Child support is nothing but a subsidy for single mothers. No surprise that the saying about what one subsidizes one gets more of is as true in this as anything else.

  11. GKChesterton says:

    In all seriousness, shouldn’t the numbers be skewed? That is, if we support the fact that personal biology and life choices lead to lower pay in women couldn’t this be a rational societal response to normative roles in child care? In saying that I’m not downplaying where things go horribly sideways, but shouldn’t the numbers look_something_ like this?

  12. Legion says:

    AJ Miller says:
    June 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

    You’re wrong. Her cats will start licking up her vomit, unti lthey start to eat her.

  13. I don’t believe the government’s analysis of the Custody Breakdown by Sex. The numbers are actually closer to 90% for mothers and 10% for fathers. This is confirmed by studies in New Jersey and other states.

  14. TFH says:


    Keep in mind that the tax treatment of CS=alimony is even more lopsided.

    The payer has to pay from after-tax income, but the recipient does not pay tax on it.

    If tax treatment is also factored in, the 91-9 split would be more like 95-5.

    Yes, it really is that bad. This is a national shame, and reveal not just why women having the right to vote becomes a disaster over time (children are harmed greatly too, not just men), but how expendable the average man really is.

  15. Dalrock says:


    In all seriousness, shouldn’t the numbers be skewed? That is, if we support the fact that personal biology and life choices lead to lower pay in women couldn’t this be a rational societal response to normative roles in child care? In saying that I’m not downplaying where things go horribly sideways, but shouldn’t the numbers look_something_ like this?

    As I understand it the idea that a wife could leave and take the children is a relatively new idea, not patriarchal at all. Even more so that unwed mothers could sue for child support.

    What we have now is a system that puts a cash bounty on the eviction of every father, including you. Are you seriously arguing that this is only normal? That it is “fair”. That it is good for children? That it is biblical?

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  17. sunshinemary says:

    Dalrock, I have a few questions about the first chart, “Custody Breakdown by Sex”. Before I ask, let me reiterate for the record that I am extremely anti-divorce and extremely in favor of men being able to co-parent when a divorce does occur. Here are my questions:

    1. Does this graph represent legal or physical custody?
    2. Does this graph someone how include joint (legal and physical) custody? I don’t see it if it does.
    3. If it doesn’t represent in any way joint custody, what percentage of custody awards are joint (versus one parent receiving full custody)?
    4.What percentage of custodial awards are against the non-custodial parent’s wishes? I’m not making any broad categorizations here – I truly want to know this. The only person I know who did not end up with joint custody post-divorce was an acquaintance whose husband left the country and did not want to see the child, but I am not implying that I think this is typical.

  18. Dalrock says:


    These are good questions. I would suggest reading one of the reports for more context on what the data means. The 2009 report is the most recent, and includes the following (P 10):

    A majority (83.2 percent) of the 5.9 million custodial parents due child support payments in 2009 had arrangements for joint child custody or visitation privileges with the noncustodial parent, not statistically different from the proportion who had such arrangements in 1993 (85.6 percent).

    As for what percent are by “voluntary” agreement vs forced, this is a difficult question. I don’t recall seeing a reference to this in the census dept reports, but I’ve seen this reported for Washington State. In that state 88% of the custody cases were decided by mutual agreement. However, this is extremely misleading because it is what economists refer to as “bargaining in the shadow of the law”. I cover that question here.

    They do point out that around 10% of the support agreements are informal though. From page 7:

    The agreements for the majority (90.9 percent) of these 6.9 million parents were reported by the custodial parent as formal legal agreements—established by a court or other government entity—while 9.1 percent were informal agreements or understandings.21 When custodial parents without any agreements and those with informal agreements were asked why a formal legal agreement was not established, the two reasons most often cited were that they did not feel the need to go to court or get legal agreements and that the other parent provided what he or she could for support (about 33 percent each).

    There are two ways to read the 10% informal agreements. The first is seeing it as bargaining in the shadow of the law. The mothers (90% of support recipients) know that if the father doesn’t pay up they can still take him through the system, as does the father. On the other hand were there no legal requirement to pay child support, I think most parents would still want to ensure that their children were taken care of, however this would of course change the dynamic.

  19. sunshinemary says:

    Thank you for the link to the report. I have read it, but my fundamental question was not answered. What percentage of divorces have joint custody awards? I will try to find this information, but if someone has it handy, please post it.

    Did you notice that this data lumps together both divorced and never-married parents? I would like to see them stratified separately.

  20. sunshinemary says:

    I have seen this statistic now on several law firm websites but no source is listed for the data:

    Close to seventy percent of child custody cases result in the mother winning custody of the child while joint custody cases occur roughly twenty percent of the time. Less than ten percent of the time the father is awarded custody in a child custody case.

    I have been reading through census data but have not been able to find a source that supports or refutes the above statistics. If the above is, however, correct, then I would say it supports the general MRA narrative that men are ejected from their children’s lives at high rates post divorce.

  21. doug1111 says:

    CK Chesterson–

    In saying that I’m not downplaying where things go horribly sideways, but shouldn’t the numbers look_something_ like this?

    No, the US since the early nineties feminist push under the slogan “dead beat dads” has the highest rates of child support=also stealth alimony in the world, measured as a percentage of the man’s after tax income, which is obviously the right way to measure it.

    Further we nearly always give sole physical custody to the woman unless she’s screamingly unfit, or doesn’t want it. Not right.

    Used to be although started changing in various states after about the first half of the 19th century that men got custody if they wanted it (and the woman had no child support payment obligations). Then the tender years doctrine started where very young and then fairly young children went to the mother, with child support owed by the father (though at much low percentage rates than now), while older children, around 88 or 10 or teen went to father custody if he wanted it (with no child support owed by the woman).

  22. GKChesterton says:

    What we have now is a system that puts a cash bounty on the eviction of every father, including you. Are you seriously arguing that this is only normal? That it is “fair”. That it is good for children? That it is biblical?

    Been away so I just saw this. No I am not, but I am saying that we should expect that as a normal “tilt”. The numbers should not be equal as the roles in marriage are not equal. I agree that there is an existing economic incentive to divorce, I’m just not sure I agree that the numbers should be equal.

    So the problem becomes how to make it all work? Since women in a normal society _wouldn’t_ be expected to be serious breadwinners some sort of payout would be expected. However, this is dependent on a “for fault divorce” setting. The payouts are a secondary concern to the lack of determining a guilty spouse in the traditional context (which reminds me of Fremont since I was just reading about him today….digression…). Guilty wives bereft of support isn’t a problem. Guilty wives getting support _is_ a problem. As is the problem of guilty women being _allowed_ to remarry.

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