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The Effect of Joint-Child-Custody Legislation on the Child-Support Receipt of Single Mothers

By Brandeanna Allen, John Nunley and Alan Seals


Due to the preponderance of single mothers on public assistance, delinquent child support has been a contentious political issue in the U.S. for over 30 years. We examine whether joint-child-custody reform affects the child- support receipt of single mothers. We use variation in the timing of joint-custody reforms across states to identify the effect of joint custody on the child-support receipt of single mothers. Joint-custody enactment raises the probability of receiving child support for all single mothers by six percent. However, the effect on all single mothers is driven by the effect on divorced mothers since separated and never-married mothers are unaffected by joint-custody reform. We conclude joint-custody reform confers the most benefit on divorced mothers and their children, particularly those who do not receive public assistance.child support, joint custody, child-custody laws, child-support enforcement

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