State Laws and Legislation

Alaska Custody and Visitation Law

Custody and Visitation for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Parents
Alaska courts typically will not consider a parent’s sexual orientation in custody and visitation determinations unless it is shown to adversely affect or harm the child(ren).

Alaska law states: “In determining whether to award shared custody of a child, the court shall consider: the child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference; the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment likely to be offered by each parent; the education of the child; the advantages of keeping the child in the community where the child presently resides; the optimal time for the child to spend with each parent considering the actual time spent with each parent, the proximity of each parent to the other and to the school in which the child is enrolled, the feasibility of travel between the parents, special needs unique to the child that may be better met by one parent than the other and which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the other parent; any findings and recommendations of a neutral mediator; any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse or child neglect in the proposed custodial household or a history of violence between the parents; evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other members of the household directly affects the emotional or physical well-being of the child; other factors the court considers pertinent.”

In one 1985 case, S.N.E. v. R.L.B., the Alaska Supreme Court stated that a parent’s sexual orientation and status as a partner in a same-sex relationship were insufficient bases upon which to deny custody to a parent. “Simply put, it is impermissible to rely on any real or imagined social stigma attaching to mother’s status as a lesbian.”

In Craig v. McBride in 1982, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed a lower court order to grant the father custody because the court found that the mother had borne children out of wedlock and demonstrated instability in terms of relationship. In so doing, the state Supreme Court warned that “To avoid even the suggestions that a custody award stem from a lifestyle conflict between a trial judge and a parent, we reiterate that trial courts must scrupulously avoid reference to such factors [in this case, a mother’s sexual conduct] absent evidence of an adverse effect to the parent-child relationship.”

A 1977 case, Horutz v. Horutz, established that consideration of a parent’s conduct is appropriate only when the evidence supports a finding that a parent’s conduct has or reasonably will have an adverse impact on the child and his best interests.

Custody and Visitation for Transgender Parents
There are no published cases dealing with transgender parents. State law, however, does not seem to permit the consideration of factors that do not affect the best interests of the child to be used in determining custody and visitation.

Custody and Visitation for Same-Sex Co-Parents
There are no reported or published opinions dealing with same-sex co-parents.

Citations: ALASKA STAT. §325.20.060 (2003); ALASKA STAT. §325.20.090 (2003); ALASKA STAT. §325.20.110 (2003); S.N.E. v. R.L.B., 699 P.2d 875 (Alaska 1985); Craig v. McBride, 639 P.2d 303 (Alaska 1982); Horutz v. Horutz, 560 P.2d 397 (Alaska 1977).

Updated: Wed, October 13, 2004 - 11:00:39