Marriage/Divorce/Custody/Support Resource Guide

With an increased emphasis on the impact of custody decisions on children by specialized professionals, the rise of family courts, the use of custody evaluations, and factors such as family violence that must be considered in applying the “best interests” standards, judges now need specialized education and access to information to make sound custody decisions. Courts have attempted to ease the pain of custody battles for families by providing mediation, parental education, and other services to parents and their children, with the hope that an increased access to information will benefit all parties involved.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Featured Links

  • Family Justice Initiative. The Landscape of Domestic Relations Cases in State Courts. (2018). This report presents a well-rounded examination of litigation in family court cases including divorce, separation, and cases allocating parental responsibility. The report contains three separate levels of analysis: case-level, court procedures and operations, and community characteristics.
  • Van Duizend, Richard and Nora E. Sydow. A New Judicial Commitment to Improving the Child Protection Process and the Quality of Outcomes for Children. (2010). Future Trends in State Courts.Over the past five years, the leaders of the nation’s state courts and human services/child protection agencies have gathered three times for national summits to improve the process for protecting the safety and ensuring the well-being of neglected and abused children. This article describes the priorities that they have defined and the approaches they have initiated to achieve them.

General  Custody

  • Determining the Best Interests of the Child. (2012) Child Welfare Information Gateway State Statutes Report comparing the various state statutory requirements for a court's determination of the "best interests of the child" when deciding custody and other child welfare decisions.
  • Chart 2: Custody Criteria. (Winter 2011). Family Law Quarterly 44, no. 4. From the Family Law Quarterly's annual issue on family law in the fifty states, this chart lists the existence of the following criteria for custody decisions: statutory guidelines; child's wishes; joint custody; cooperative parent; whether a statute permitting the consideration of domestic violence has been enacted; health; and whether the state has statutory authority for appointment of an attorney or guardian ad litem for the child specifically in custody cases.
  • Family Law in the Fifty States. (2008). American Bar Association.  Family Law Quarterly. These charts summarize basic laws in each state by topic, including custody, alimony and grounds for divorce. All charts are current as of January 2008. (Please note: These charts are based on reporters from the various states. The laws may have changed or new cases may have interpreted statutes.
  • A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases. (2008). National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges The Judicial Guide contains 14 bench cards which provide an easy-to-use checklist system for judges in custody cases involving abuse.
  • Zeitler, Michelle  and Samantha Moore Children Come First A Process Evaluation of the Nassau County Model Custody Part. (December 2008). Center for Court Innovation. This report presents a process evaluation of the Children Come First (CCF) Program, a problem solving matrimonial court piloted in Nassau County, New York. The program seeks to provide a more effective and child-centered response to high conflict divorce cases involving custody issues.
  • Newdow, Michael. Family Feud: Family Courts Don`t Solve Conflict, They Create It. (June 2004). Slate: Jurisprudence: The Law, Lawyers, and the Court. Custody battles. Custody wars. Custody disputes. Conflict has become so ubiquitous in family law that it is difficult for anyone not to think of it once the word "custody" is mentioned.
  • A Judge`s Guide: Making Child-Centered Decisions in Custody Cases. (2001). Washington, DC: ABA Center on Children and the Law. While written for judges, it is a valuable resource for any professional engaged in child custody practice.

Custody Evaluations

  • Babb, Barbara A. et al.Child Custody Evaluations: Review of the Literature and Annotated Bibliography. (April 2009). Maryland Judiciary Research Consortium. This report contains an analysis of issues on child custody evaluation policies and protocols and an annotated bibliography of pertinent custody evaluation literature.
  • Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation. (2006). Madison, WI: Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Task Force for Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation. Standards cover general practice, evaluators, training and core competency, records, communication with other parties, data gathering, assessment instruments, team approaches, conflicts, child interviews, collateral source information, and presentation and interpretation of data.
  • Keilitz, Susan L. Domestic Violence and Child Custody Disputes: A Resource Handbook for Judges and Court Managers. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts (1997). The handbook addresses the issues that arise in cases or claims involving the custody or visitation of children whose parents may be divorced or divorcing, separated or separating, or filing a petition for an order of protection from abuse.
  • Herman, Stephen P., and William Bernet. Summary of the Practice Parameters for Child Custody Evaluation. (June 1997). American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Annual Meeting. This summary is presented as a guide for clinicians evaluating the often delicate and complex issues surrounding a child custody dispute.

Mediation and Parent Education

  • Center for Divorce Education. The CDE at Ohio University researches and publishes resources about parent education programs. For more information please contact: Dr. Don Gordon, P.O. Box 5900, Athens, OH 45701, or call CDE at (740) 594-7173.
  • Babb, Barbara A. et al. Parent Education Programs: Review of the Literature and Annotated Bibliography. (June 2009). Maryland Judiciary Research Consortium. This literature review of parent education programs provides a thorough examination of the models of programs currently in use in terms of effectiveness, scope of interventions, and empirical evidence of success.
  • Proposed Guidelines, Standards, and Requirements for Parent Education Program. (2003). Albany: New York Parent Educational Advisory Board. Education programs for divorcing or separating parents are a response to the growing recognition that, while the divorce or separation of their parents is stressful and upsetting to children, long-term problems are not inevitable and how children fare in the aftermath of their parents' breakup depends in large measure on how parents handle the ending of their relationship

Third Party Visitation

  • Chart 6: Third-Party Visitation. (Winter 2006). Family Law Quarterly 39, no. 4. From the Family Law Quarterly's annual issue on family law in the fifty states, this chart lists the status of stepparents, grandparents, and interested parties with regard to visitation generally, in situations where parents died, divorced, or were never married.

Child Support

  • Stamps, Leighton E. Age Differences Among Judges Regarding Maternal Preference in Child Custody Decisions.(Winter 2002). Court Review 38, no. 4: 18. Over the last 30 to 40 years, sweeping changes have occurred in societal attitudes toward divorce. These changes have been reflected in the laws governing divorce and child custody.
  • Best Practices and Good Ideas in Child Support Enforcement 2002. (2002). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement. Series of actual solutions undertaken at the state and local level. This is the seventh edition of the manual.  See 2001 Sixth Edition and 2000 Fifth Edition.
  • Chart 3: Child Support Guidelines. (Winter 2006). Family Law Quarterly 39, no. 4. From the Family Law Quarterly's annual issue on family law in the fifty states, this chart lists the type of guidelines used in each state; how extraordinary medical expenses are considered; how child-care expenses are handled; whether college support is included; and the effect of shared parenting on the formula.
  • Ordowich, Richard, Curtis Rose and Diana Coffey DANG...That's fast!. Presentation from the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the National Court Technology Conference that provides an overview of the Office of Child Support Enforcement's role and initiatives for CA, NY, GA, NJ and CO.
  • Fathering Court. District of Columbia Superior Court. This is a voluntary court proceeding and re-entry program operated through the DC Superior Court. Participants must have child support orders for children who live in the District of Columbia, and the legal custodian/guardian of the child (or children) must agree to support the overall efforts of the program.
  • National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA). The NCSEA site includes a searchable database of citations, abstracts, and full documents of child-support-related articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, and reports to federal, state, and local governments. The database is searchable by use of any keyword or phrases, including the names of authors, journals, or topical subjects.
  • National Conference of State Legislators Child Support Project. Contains information about state programs, innovations, state-by-state information on child support guidelines, and links to state offices.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement. Includes fact sheets, handbooks, tribal resources, and links to state IV-D program sites.

Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage

  • Compendium of Family Court Practices. (2006). Florida Office of the State Court Administrator, Office of Court Improvement. See page 21 for a discussion of innovative practices and improvements in dissolution of marriage case processing in various Florida Circuit Courts.
  • Goerdt, John. Divorce Courts: Case Management, Case Characteristics, and the Pace of Litigation in the 16 Urban Jurisdictions. (1992). This seminal work provides divorce caseload data, describes jurisdictional and procedural difference in divorce case processing, and analyzes the effects of caseload size, case characteristics, and case management procedures on divorce case processing times.
  • R. LaFountain, R. Schauffler, S. Strickland, W. Raftery & C. Bromage Examining the Work of State Courts: An Analysis of 2007 State Court Caseloads. Court Statistics Project. (2007). See document page 15 for the divorce caseload trend for 1996-2005.
  • Family Law in the 50 States. (January 2011). Family Law Quarterly, The American Bar Association. The Family Law Quarterly publishes family law charts from the 50 states annually.  See Chart 1 for alimony/spousal support factors, Chart 4 for grounds for divorce and residency requirements, and Chart 5 for property division in the states as of January 2011.
  • Mandatory Divorce Mediation Requirement. Utah State Courts. In Utah, when an answer is filed in response to a divorce complaint, all remaining contested issues are referred to mandatory mediation.  This site discusses the mandatory divorce mediation program and includes a list of mediators.
  • Marriage and Divorce Statistics. National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Included here are marriage and divorce statistics from 1990 to 2005, including detailed marriage and divorce tables by state.

Same Sex Marriage

  • Bonauto, Mary L. Civil Marriage as a Locus of Civil Rights Struggles. (Summer 2003). Human Rights 30, No. 3:3. This article, found in the American Bar Association Human Rights publication, explores one commonality among a number of civil rights struggles - for women, African Americans, and now gay and lesbian Americans - the access to and treatment within civil marriage.
  • Cramer, Amelia C. Civil Marriage & Same-Sex Couples: The Freedom to Marry Must Not Be Denied. (March 2004). Arizona Attorney: 14. This article categorizes the 1,049 federal rights and responsibilities and hundreds of state rights and responsibilities that are given to heterosexual married couples and denied to same-sex couples. The underlying theme is that so long as there is a government-sponsored institution of civil marriage, equal protection demands that all persons be entitled to participate in this institution equally.
  • Defense of Marriage Act by State. Alliance Defense Fund. This resource includes an interactive map of the states and shows the status of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the states.  The map depicts states with and without DOMA legislation, states with constitutional provisions prohibiting same-sex marriage, and states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures. Provides links to a Defense of Marriage Act map, domestic partnership/civil union map, and a same-sex marriage timeline.
  • The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. The Charles R. Williams Project on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy is a think tank dedicated to the field of sexual orientation law and public policy. The Project supports legal scholarship, legal research, policy analysis, and education regarding sexual orientation discrimination and other legal issues that affect lesbian and gay people. The Williams Project originated with the recognition that issues central to sexual orientation law have profound implications for the development of the law and public policy in general. Drawing on the intellectual and material resources of UCLA, the Williams Project provides a national center for the interdisciplinary exploration of these issues by scholars, judges, practitioners, advocates, and students.