Custody, Access and Child Support: Findings from The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth


The NLSCY provides invaluable data on the family histories of children in Canada. Further cycles will allow us to assess the impact of the many challenges that a growing number of Canadian children face as more and more children live through the separation of their parents, and at increasingly young ages.

This research has shown that the family lives of children are becoming increasingly complex. Not only are children being born in greater and greater numbers to couples in common-law unions, but they are more at risk of experiencing their parents' separation and at an ever younger age. The type of union parents enter into to raise their family has far-reaching consequences on the lives their children will lead. As we have seen, common-law unions are more likely to end in separation than marriages; children of these common-law unions are more likely than children from broken marriages to live exclusively with their mother, they are more likely to see their father irregularly or not at all; and are less likely to benefit from regular child support payments.

Children whose parents divorce rather than separate are more likely to be covered by a court-ordered child support agreement but children covered by a private agreement are more likely to receive regular support payments than those covered by a court-ordered agreement. Further analysis is required to look at such variables as the impact of the formation of a new union by either parent on the existing agreements regarding the child or children from a previous union. To what extent can the loss of contact by fathers be explained by the erosion of the father-child relationship over time? How much of the loss of contact is explained by conflict between former spouses regarding access? What is the impact on the formation of new unions by either parent on the amount of contact between fathers and their children? What is the impact of separation on the level and sources of income for custodial parent households? It is these questions that we will turn to in our future research.