The Empirics of Child Custody

21 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2016 Last revised: 25 Oct 2017

See all articles by Margaret Ryznar

Margaret Ryznar

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: June 22, 2016


Child custody issues are as American as apple pie, with only a quarter of children seeing their parents married until the end. The legal standard for custody is the best interests of the child, but the greyness of this inquiry allows courts to make difficult judgments. In family law, such discretionary standards govern factually diverse cases and make it difficult to draw conclusions from individual cases. This Article offers an objective measurement in family law by empirically examining a sample of Indiana divorce cases filed during three months in 2008 that involved children. The resulting analysis of child custody and visitation awards reveals the current understanding of the child’s best interests and the role of judicial discretion, illuminating both national and local trends in family law.

Keywords: Family Law, Domestic Relations, Child Custody

Suggested Citation

Ryznar, Margaret, The Empirics of Child Custody (June 22, 2016). Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 2, pp. 211-230, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Margaret Ryznar (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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