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Know the Laws: Alaska

UPDATED September 14, 2017

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Military deployment and custody/visitation

back to topWill a parent's military deployment be held against him/her? How else does it affect custody/visitation?

No.  A parent's temporary duty, mobilization, or deployment to military service and the temporary disruption to the child that results from it are not supposed to affect the judge's decision to grant or deny a petition for custody or visitation.  If a parent is deployed or in a position where the parent may be deployed, the judge is supposed to take particular care to ensure that the child has the maximum opportunity to have contact with the parent (if it is in the child's best interest).* 

The court order that is written must require that:

  • the non-deployed parent make the child reasonably available for visitation to the deployed parent when the deployed parent is on leave (if the visits are in the child's best interest);
  • each parent help to arrange contact (by phone, email, video-chat, etc.) between the other parent and the child (if the contact is in the child's best interest);
  • the deployed parent provide timely information to the non-deployed parent regarding the deployed parent's leave schedule; and
  • each parent provide immediate notification of a change of address or contact information unless this information is to be kept confidential due to domestic violence.**
Note: When the deployed parent files a petition for custody or visitation, s/he may include a request to give his/her visitation rights to a family member to use instead.***  See Can a parent who is deployed give his/her visitation rights to a family member?

* Alaska Statute § 25.20.095(a)
** Alaska Statute § 25.20.095(f)
*** Alaska Statute § 25.20.095(c),(g)

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back to topCan a parent modify a custody order because of military service?

If one parent is deployed, a judge can temporarily modify (change) a custody or visitation order to account for the parent’s relocation or absence.*  In the temporary custody order, the judge should:

  • Arrange for custody or reasonable visitation during the deployed parent’s leave period (if it's in the child’s best interest);
  • Explain in the order that the temporary order will terminate (end) and the parents will go back to the terms of the original, permanent custody order within 10 days after the deployed parent notifies the court/ other parent that s/he can resume custody or visitation (unless the non-deployed parent can prove to the judge that the terms of the original, permanent order are no longer in the child's best interest. See more information at What if I feel it is unsafe to go back to the original custody order?
  • Arrange for immediate notification by each parent of any change of address or contact information to the other parent and to the court (unless due to domestic violence, the abused parent’s address must be kept confidential – in that case, it would only be given to the court, not the other parent);
  • Let another family member of the deployed parent use his/her visitation rights (called “delegation” of visitation) under an existing order, but only under certain circumstances. See Can a parent who is deployed give his/her visitation rights to a family member?
* Alaska Statute § 25.20.110(e)

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back to topIf a temporary modification is made to a custody order because of military duty, what happens when the parent returns?

Within 10 days of the deployed parent notifying the other parent/ court that s/he can resume custody or visitation, the temporary, modified custody order will no longer be in effect and the parents will go back to the terms of the original, permanent custody order unless the judge believes it is not in the child's best interest to go back to the original order. Note: It would be up to the non-deployed parent to prove that resuming the terms of the original custody or visitation order is not in the best interest of the child.* 

If the deployed parent has been moved out of state and the non-deployed parent believes that going back to the original, permanent custody order will result in immediate danger or severe harm to the child or there has been domestic violence, the non-deployed parent can file a motion (legal papers) in court. The judge must arrange for a hearing on this issue.**

* Alaska Statute § 25.20.110(e)(2)
** Alaska Statute § 25.20.110(e)(3)

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back to topWhat if I feel it is unsafe to go back to the original custody order?

If the deployed parent has been moved out of state and the non-deployed parent files a motion (legal papers) claiming that going back to the original, permanent custody order will result in immediate danger of severe harm to the child or that there has been domestic violence, the judge must arrange for a hearing on this issue.*

* Alaska Statute § 25.20.110(e)(3)

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back to topCan a parent who is deployed give his/her visitation rights to a family member?

Yes, possibly. When a parent who is deployed files a petition for custody or visitation, s/he may include a request to delegate (give) his/her visitation rights to a family member to use instead. The judge should allow the family member to use the visitation rights only if:

  • the family member has an existing close relationship to the child; and
  • it is in the child’s best interest.
However, if the family member wanting visitation has a history of domestic violence against a spouse, a child, or a domestic living partner, or lives with someone who does, then the judge has to assume that the family member cannot use the visitation (although the family member can present evidence to try to change the judge’s mind about this).*

* Alaska Statute § 25.24.150(c),(g)

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WomensLaw.org would like to thank the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for its assistance with this section, especially Christine Pate, Pro Bono Project Director, and Andrea Browning, former Legal Advocacy Project Coordinator.

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