Know the Laws: Alaska
UPDATED February 13, 2015
Please consider getting help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action. To find an organization, please go to Where to Find Help.
The judge will look at many things to decide what is in the best interest of the child. If you are filing for custody, you should be prepared with as much information as possible about the other parent, the child, and yourself. Here are some things a judge will look at when determining what is in the "best interest" of the child:
If a parent or guardian ad litem asks for shared custody of a child and the court denies that request, the judge will put the reasons s/he denied your request on the court record.*
*Alaska Statute § 25.20.100
A person can file for custody without a lawyer but it is usually best to have the help of a lawyer. The information we provide here should get you started and help you with basic questions you might have. However, custody issues are complicated and frequently need the help of a lawyer. For a list of legal resources, please see our AK Finding a Lawyer page.
Jurisdiction refers to which court has the power to hear a case, and custody jurisdiction is state law. However, most states (if not all) have adopted one of two laws: either the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
Alaska has adopted the UCCJEA, which we explain here.
Under the UCCJEA, you can generally only file for custody in the "home state" of the child. (There are exceptions to the "home state" rule -- see next section.)
The "home state" is the state where the child has lived with a parent, or a person acting as a parent, for at least six consecutive months. If the child is less than six months old, the "home state" is the state where the child has lived from birth. (Temporarily going out of the state does not change anything.)
If you and your child recently moved to a new state, generally you cannot file for custody in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months. Until then, a custody case can be started in the state that the child last lived in for at least six months.
Example: If a family lives in state A for one year, state A is the home state. If the mom and kids then move to state B, state A is still the home state for the next 6 months, if one parent continues to live in State A.
There are exceptions to the home state rule. In some cases, you can file for custody in a state where the children and at least one parent have "significant connections." Usually, however, you can only do this if there is no home state or if the home state has agreed to let another state have jurisdiction.* This can be complicated, and if you think this applies to your situation, please talk to a lawyer in both states about this. For a list of legal resources, please see our Finding A Lawyer page under the Where to Find Help tab.
If you have lived in Alaska for less than six months, see Can I get temporary emergency custody?
*Alaska Stat. § 25.30.300
Maybe. If you move to another state, you may be able to change the state where the custody case is being heard. You will have to ask the judge that is hearing the case to change the jurisdiction of your case. This is often complicated, and as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this.
Maybe. This is a complicated area of the law, relating to the UCCJEA. You can file for temporary emergency custody in Alaska even if it is not the home state if the child is in the state and one of the following is true:
Maybe. If you get a protective order due to domestic violence, the order may include temporary custody and/or temporary visitation rights for children. Be sure to tell the judge that you want custody during your protective order hearing so that the judge can take your request into consideration. Custody granted with that protective order expires with that order. Alaska's long term protective orders are good for one year so that is how long the custody provisions would last. The judge may extend a temporary order if s/he feels it is necessary.*
* Alaska Statute § 18.66.100(c)(9)
The specific steps for filing for custody vary, depending on your particular situation. The Alaska Court System website provides some information.
If you are going to file for custody without an attorney, you can obtain some of the forms by going to our AK Download Court Forms page or the Alaska Court System's Family Law Self Help Center.
Custody matters are often complicated and if you can have a lawyer draft the paperwork for you and represent you in court, it might make the process much easier for you. For information on finding a lawyer, see our AK Finding a Lawyer page.