At What Age, Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live with in Alaska?

Father picking up his daughter at her mother's house.

When divorcing with children, one of the most important issues that will be addressed is parenting time. What will child custody and visitation look like after divorce? This is a critical question that can lead to so many emotions. It is no wonder that child custody is one of the most contentious things that must be handled in a divorce. If you are able to reach a custody agreement with your spouse on your own, that can be a great option.

Many people, however, find it impossible to reach a mutually acceptable parenting schedule with their soon to be former spouse. When an impasse is reached, the court must step in to decide the custody arrangement based on what is in the best interest of the child. To determine what is actually in the best interest of the child, the court will evaluate a range of factors including, in some cases, the preference of the child.

Is the Child’s Preference Taken Into Account?

Alaska judges make custody determination based on the best interest of the child standard. To do this, the court considers:

  • The physical, emotional, mental, and social needs of the child
  • The ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child
  • Each parent’s relationship with the child
  • The stability of the child’s current home environment
  • The willingness of each parent to foster a close relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Other factors relevant to the child’s well-being.

In addition to the above factors, the court may consider the child’s preference. The child, however, must be old enough and mature enough to provide a reasonable opinion. The qualifying age for this is not specifically set forth by Alaska law. Instead, the court is granted the discretion to evaluate whether the child is of sufficient age and capacity to articulate a meaningful preference. The more able a child is to communicate a preference and to support that preference with valid reasons, the more likely it is that a judge will take the preference into consideration. Additionally, judges tend to give greater weight to the preference expressed by children older in age than younger ones.

Alaska also has protocols in place for children to be able to express their opinions and preferences regarding custody in a safe space. It is understandable that children may be uncomfortable expressing their preferences in front of their parents. Because of this, a judge may appoint a custody investigator to talk to the child and report relevant findings to the judge. IN the alternative, the court may interview the child outside of the parents’ presence. In this situation, the judge is restricted to only discussing the child’s custodial preference. The judge must report the summary of the interview to the parents. In some instances, the interview is recorded.

Alaska Divorce Attorney

Child custody determinations are a focal point of determining what your family life will look like after divorce. It is important that you not only understand the process but feel like your voice is being heard in the process. That is why the Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston is committed to making sure our clients know what they will be confronting as well as always advocating for the best interests of our clients and their families. Contact the Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston today.

Posted in: Child Custody