As an Alaska parent who has navigated a divorce, you are likely no stranger to negotiation. You and your ex were hopefully able to achieve a settlement without confrontation, especially regarding issues that are relevant to your children. When a family court judge issued a child custody order, you and your co-parent became legally bound to adhere to its terms.
Unless and until the judge nullifies or changes the order, it remains active and enforceable under the law. What should you do, then, if issues have arisen that make the existing terms of agreement no longer feasible? In such a case, you might want to determine whether you have a justifiable cause to request modification of your child custody order.
Legitimate reasons for child custody modification
Because the court makes its child custody decisions carefully, in accordance with state guidelines and with children’s best interests in mind, you must demonstrate just cause if you want to change the terms of your court order. The following list shows numerous issues that the average family court judge might consider legitimate reasons for modifying an existing custody order:
- A change has occurred that makes the scheduled time for custody exchange infeasible.
- One of the parents is moving to another state.
- Evidence of domestic violence, child endangerment or neglect has arisen.
- The co-parent has died or is in jail.
Many issues can make an original custody exchange schedule infeasible. For example, if you and your ex typically meet to exchange custody of your toddler during the day, this schedule would become impractical if the child in question reaches age 7, which is the compulsory school age in Alaska. A custody exchange during morning or afternoon hours would no longer work, unless the child was being educated through homeschooling.
Has your co-parent become unfit for custody?
If you have evidence to show that your children are at risk when they are in the custody of their other parent, you may be able to convince the court to modify the child custody order. If your child has come home with unexplained injuries or you have evidence to show that your ex has been abusing drugs or alcohol or has developed a mental illness, the judge overseeing your case might determine that a child custody modification order will help keep your kids safe and well.
When an Alaska parent requests child custody modification, he or she must file a petition, which incurs a fee. If you’re considering requesting a change to your existing court order, it is best to learn more about the process, so you know how to navigate the system. Bear in mind that you still have an obligation to adhere to the original terms of the agreement until the judge issues a new order.