Going through a divorce can be a painful experience, especially for children who get caught between parents entangled in a child custody battle. When parents cannot agree on custody decisions, the court will step in making decisions for them. At the same time, each custody case is unique, and resolving these issues requires the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
Peggy Roston works closely with families who are facing complicated child custody issues. By understanding your unique circumstances and family dynamics, she can help design creative solutions that protect the best interests of your children.
Child Custody in Alaska
Generally, there are two types of custody, legal custody, and physical custody:
Legal custody – Each parent has a right and duty to make major decisions for their children on issues such as religion, education, and nonemergency medical care. Unless the parents are unable to cooperate and communicate regarding these decisions, the court prefers to grant joint legal custody to both parents.
Physical custody – This is a matter of deciding which parent will have actual physical care and control of the child. There are three types of physical custody, primary physical custody, shared physical custody, and hybrid physical custody. Ultimately, physical custody is determined by the number of overnights the child spends with each parent.
If the parents cannot agree on decision-making or sharing time with their children, then a custody case becomes “contested,” and the parties will need to file a motion for custody with the court. In Alaska, the court makes child custody decisions based on what is in the “best interests of the child” according to state law (AS 25.24.150(c)).
Some of the factors the court will consider include, but are not limited to:
- The physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child
- The capability and desire of each parent to meet these needs
- The love and affection existing between the child and each parent
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
It is important to note that the law presumes both parents are entitled to equal access to the children until the court issues a final custody decree. This means that neither parent can prevent the other parent from seeing the children during this time. If one parent is granted primary custody of the children, the court will strive to ensure there is regular visitation with the other parent. Although a parent’s rights cannot be terminated in a custody proceeding, the court can restrict access to the children if there is evidence of child abuse, domestic violence or substance abuse.
What is interim custody?
Because the court schedule is busy, a child custody case can be a lengthy process and may even take a year or longer to go to trial. If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement during this time, it is necessary to file a Motion for Interim Custody. The judge will hold a hearing before issuing a temporary custody order, which will remain in effect until the judge issues a final custody decree.
Resolving Child Custody Disputes
Whether you are involved in a contested custody as part of a divorce proceeding, are unmarried parents who need assistance resolving child custody issues, or grandparents seeking visitation rights, Peggy has the knowledge and skills to help you resolve these issues.
At the same time, she also works to help families find solutions outside of court. If the parties are willing and able to set aside their differences, it may be possible to reach an agreement through a negotiated settlement or through the mediation process. Nonetheless, the court must approve a Parenting Agreement entered into by the parties before it becomes enforceable.
Modification of Custody
After a final custody order has been entered by the court, it may be necessary to request a modification of custody. In order for the court to grant a modification, there must be a material change in circumstances. This includes a parent who is seeking to relocate from Alaska or to a distant community in the state, a parent’s failure to abide by the terms of the custody order, or allegations of child abuse or substance abuse.
Experienced Child Custody Attorney in Alaska
For over 26 years, Peggy Roston has been helping her clients design parenting plans which will meet the children’s best interests. She is aware that child custody disputes can be disruptive to the entire family. Over her many years of practice, she has helped clients from all walks of life resolve their most pressing issues. If you are involved in a child custody dispute, need assistance negotiating a Parenting Agreement, or need to modify an existing custody order, Peggy will provide the advice and support you need.
Located in Anchorage, Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston serves clients in Fairbanks, on the Kenai, in the Mat-Su Valley and throughout the state of Alaska. Contact Peggy with any of your family law questions today.