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Are 93 per cent of "custody battles" won by mothers? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by George O'Neill   
With the release of the Family Justice Review final report, there came a number of articles concerning the custody of children whose parents have divorced or separated. But where did the above Daily Mail statistic come from?

The Family Justice Review final report “flatly rejected claims by fathers' rights groups that the current system is biased – despite figures showing that 93 per cent of custody battles are won by the mother”.

Daily Mail, 4 November 2011

The recommendations of the Family Justice Review final report were yesterday denounced by the Daily Mail as a “betrayal of the family”. 

Among other things, the review advised that “no legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents”, advice that drew strong criticism from certain fathers' rights groups and sections of the press.

But there was one figure in the Mail's coverage that caught our eye in particular. Were 93 per cent of custody battles won by mothers, and where did the figure come from in the first place?

Although the figure is quoted on several websites (for example, see the UK Men and Father's Rights statistics page, and the Cheltenham Group website), we could find no official confirmation of the number.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it didn't recognise the 93 per cent figure, while the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) confessed themselves “baffled” as to the source of the Daily Mail's statistics.

Eventually, our inquiries paid off. Fathers for Justice (whose reaction to the review was quoted also in the Daily Mail article), told us that, although they didn't have a figure for the results of court disputes between parents,  they did have numbers that appear to be the source of the Daily Mail's claim. 

They told us that this result came from the Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA figure refers to the proportion of all separated or divorced couples with children, for which the children live with the mother. 
Full Fact found the latest Child Support Agency National Statistics to confirm this figure. It recorded that “In 95.1% of assessed cases, the non-resident parent is male”. It would seem that the claim that 95% of resident parents are female is the corollary of this claim, however, this isn't specifically mentioned in the document. Full Fact found an earlier report, though (June 2009, table 24) which did specifically record that 95 per cent of “parents/persons with care” were female.

Fathers for Justice told us that to their knowledge there was no record of the proportion of cases in which the courts awarded child custody to the mother.

If the CSA figures are indeed the source of the Daily Mail's claim, then it has clearly been misrepresented. Not all of these couples will not have gone through the court system, but instead will have reached an arrangement either on their own or with the help of mediation. Their results cannot therefore be used as evidence of outcomes custody battles, which is the context in which the Daily Mail uses the figure.


Full Fact has contacted the Daily Mail to ascertain whether the CSA report is indeed the source of their claim, as seems likely. If it is we will be asking for a correction.

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