An Australian study has revealed that children of separated parents stay with their mothers most of the time even though the law stipulates equal custody after a divorce.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies tracked 10,000 separated parents in the wake of the Howard government's family law reform, which requires courts to presume equal responsibility for children and consider making orders for equal time with both parents.
The study showed 79 percent of children spent more or all nights with their mother, and that only 7 percent of children had equal care time with each parent, and a third of children never stayed with their father.
In 23 percent of cases, the father only saw his children during the day.
The report's author, Ruth Weston, said shared care had risen, and now made up 16 per cent of all custody arrangements.
"Mums are typically more involved in the day-to-day life of the child before separation anyway, this applies across all age groups, but their involvement is particularly intense when the children are very young," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Weston as saying.
She said shared care appeared to be "working well" and was most often the result of discussion between the parents and not a court order.
Five to 11-year-olds (26 percent) were more likely to be in some form of shared care, defined as a 35 to 65 percent split between the parents. This was least common for infants (7.5 percent).
"Traditional care arrangements involving more nights with the mother than the father remain the most common for children of all age groups," the institute's director, Alan Hayes, said.