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Modifying an order for child custody in an Alaska divorce

Enduring the process of a divorce in Alaska can be an exhausting ordeal. When the judge signs the final order regarding child custody, child support, asset division and other matters, many individuals think that the ordeal is over.

Of course, life is never certain, and unforeseen circumstances may render the most carefully crafted orders suddenly oppressive and unfair. One of the former spouses to seek changes in the child custody and support orders.

This post is intended to illustrate the procedures required to modify an order for child custody and to demonstrate that modifying an order for child custody is not an impossibility.

The grounds for seeking a modification

The ex-spouse seeking the modification must demonstrate that circumstances have changed to a degree that renders the original order for custody impractical or no longer in the child’s best interests.

In deciding whether to allow a proposed modification, the court will apply a two-step test. First, is the reason for the change legitimate? Legitimate reasons include a better-paying job that requires one parent to move, a health crisis that requires one parent to move to seek specialized health care, the need of one parent to enter a special education program.

If the judge determines that the reasons for requesting the modification are legitimate, next the judge must determine whether the modification will serve the best interests of the child.

Resolving the issues

If the parents cannot agree between themselves about how to resolve the issues created by the requested move, the matter will be submitted to the court in an open hearing. Both parents will be able to submit written arguments to the court and cross-examine each other’s witnesses and evidence.

After hearing the testimony of witnesses and reading the parties’ briefs, the court will render a written decision.