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Child custody linked to drop in interstate migration

Divorce has been blamed for all manner of social ills in Maryland and around the country ranging from increased juvenile delinquency to soaring rates of substance abuse, and a professor at the University of Connecticut is now speculating that divorce and child custody could be behind a noticeable reduction in state-to-state migration. The rate hovered around 8 percent between 1965 and 2000, but it has fallen sharply since the turn of the century.

The drop in the number of Americans moving to a different state was initially put down to the longer lifespans that modern Americans enjoy, but the trend remained unchanged when the figures were adjusted to account for an aging population. Home ownership and economic hardships were also considered as possible explanations, but the percentage of Americans who own their own homes has remained largely unchanged and migration patterns have been consistent during economic peaks and troughs.

The UConn professor believes that modern child custody arrangements could explain the lower rates of inter-state migration. During the 1960s and 1970s, mothers were almost always awarded custody, but joint custody arrangements are the norm today. Modern fathers are also often far more involved in the day-to-day lives of their children, and they understand that moving out of state could lead to them losing custody.

Divorced parents who wish to move to another state for personal or professional reasons face a number of challenges. Judges award joint custody because they believe that such an arrangement is best for children, and they may be reluctant to alter these arrangements unless provided with compelling reasons to do so. Experienced family law attorneys could advocate on behalf of divorced parents who wish to relocate by pointing out the economic advantages that a better paying job could provide or the educational and cultural opportunities that the new location offers.

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