Data and Methods: We harness survey data collected from divorced (or separated) parents in Wisconsin (2020) and Finland (2019), which were designed to enable comparative analysis. Wisconsin participants were drawn from divorce records and were interviewed 7-11 years after the divorce petition. The final study sample consisted of 219 mothers with sole placement, 54 mothers with equal shared placement, and 122 mothers with unequal shared placement. For the Finnish participants, a sample of parents living apart with the child’s other parent for at least 6 years was drawn from a register-based dataset. The final study sample consisted of about 1387 mothers with sole placement, 335 mothers with equal shared placement, and 478 mothers with unequal shared placement.
We will first conduct a series of descriptive and regression analyses examining child support payment as a function of post-separation placement arrangement type. Second, we will investigate how parental sharing of specific expenses (e.g. school, daycare, clothes) may vary by care arrangement. All analyses will be conducted separately for the Wisconsin and Finnish samples and estimates will be compared across samples in terms of direction and statistical significance.
Results: The results show that parents with shared care share the economic responsibility of the child less commonly through child support payments (in Finland 23% and in Wisconsin 52% of shared placement parents) compared to parents with sole placement (in Finland 65% and in Wisconsin 79% of sole placement parents). In addition to any child support payments made, parents in shared care more commonly share child related expenses, though not always equally.
Conclusion and Implications: Across countries parents can decide, to varying degrees, how they share the economic responsibility of the child post-separation. As shared care arrangements are increasingly common, child support arrangements may be less common. Thus the onus to allocate costs of rearing children rests with parents. As our results show, for some, this might lead to unequal sharing of costs. The differences in the public support systems between the US and Finland, however, might mean that some of this disproportion in cost sharing is compensated by the state in Finland.