Legal Visitation Orders, Family Courts, and Fragile Families

Maureen Waller, Cornell University
Allison Dwyer Emory, Cornell University

Despite federal proposals which would require states to establish visitation responsibilities in all initial child support orders by 2019, little is known about how unmarried parents view legal visitation orders or the characteristics and circumstances of parents who have such agreements. This project will analyze focus group and interview data from 60 unmarried mothers and fathers in New York to examine the frames through with they perceive visitation agreements. It will also draw on information from unmarried parents with child support orders in the Fragile Families Study (n=1,024) to examine coparenting quality and other key factors identified in the qualitative study which predict whether parents establish a legal visitation order for their children. Preliminary results suggest that unmarried parents living apart with less cooperative coparenting relationships perceive greater benefits to establishing legal visitation agreements and more likely to establish such orders within five years of their child’s birth.

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Presented in Session 2: Legal and Policy Aspects of Complex Families