Social Science Update: Does a presumption of joint physical custody in the law make any difference in cases involving domestic abuse?
In 2011, social scientists looked at the effect of the 1997 change to Oregon’s custody law. The law changed to include the presumption that joint physical custody is in the best interests of the children of divorce. The study review 500 randomly selected files of cases involving children for three years before the change in the law and for five years after the change in the law.
This study found that the change in the law led to a decrease in sole custody to mothers and a rise in sole custody to fathers. There was little change in joint custody arrangements. There was a significant increase in the percentage of mediated divorces and a lengthening of the time to conclude divorces.
There was also an increase in the number of abuse actions filed, particularly by wives. This resulted in an increase in no-contact orders. Accusations in these cases were made by both husbands and wives and there were more repeat allegations. Most abuse claims that did not result in an issuance of a no-contact order were made by wives and were mostly due to not showing up for court. Most abuse claims by husbands that did not result in the issuance of a no-contact order were dismissed by the court for a lack of evidence.