Protecting the relationship that you have with your children may be the most important consideration in your upcoming divorce. Many couples have trouble agreeing on the terms for custody, and some people even attempt to use custody of their children as a way to punish their ex.
Whether you just want to ensure you play an active role in your children’s lives or you worry that your ex may try to limit your access to your children, focusing on child custody can help you protect and legally solidify this most important of relationships.
Most people have heard horror stories about the courts making unfair or seemingly prejudiced decisions in custody cases, but those horror stories may be exaggerated or outdated. Familiarizing yourself with how Alaska handles child custody in a divorce can make you feel more confident when you move forward with the end of your marriage.
You have the option of setting the terms yourself
Although not every couple can successfully negotiate custody terms before filing for divorce, it is possible to do so in some families. If you and your ex can agree on a reasonable way in which to split responsibility for your children, you may be able to file an uncontested divorce with your own parenting plan submitted for the approval of the courts.
The family courts will review any settlement to ensure that the terms you set follow state law and focus on the best interests of the children. For example, neither spouse has the right to forgive the obligation of the other to pay child support. However, there are custody arrangements in which neither party has to pay child support. Working toward an even custody arrangement can minimize any support obligations for either spouse.
The courts only award sole custody in special circumstances
The Alaskan family courts try to focus on the best interests of the children when they decide how to handle custody matters. Usually, preserving both parental relationships will be what is best for the child. However, there are circumstances in which the courts award sole custody to one parent.
The most common circumstance is when one parent requests sole or primary custody and the other parent does not object. However, even if both parents want custody, there may be circumstances in which the courts award custody to only one parent. Situations involving abuse, addiction, mental illness and similar dangerous elements may prompt the courts to award custody to one parent over the other.
For most families, litigated divorces will end with shared custody arrangements, with the parent who has less parenting time often ordered to pay support. You will likely have a say in the important decisions made about your children, as well as scheduled parenting or custody time with them.