Establishing a child’s physical care and who gets decision-making authority over them is important to parents, regardless of whether they are married or not. However, it is undeniable that establishing child custody is especially crucial for unwed parents.
Nonetheless, while Alaska’s laws do not recognize common law marriage, the state allows unmarried parents to file a custody case to develop a parenting plan.
What the custody case determines
Similar to custody cases involving married parents, custody cases filed by unmarried parents determine physical custody, legal custody and child support, which comprise the final parenting plan. Custody cases filed by unmarried parents do not deal with property and debt issues.
Like all child custody cases, courts determine each aspect based on several factors, with the child’s best interests as the top priority.
Why unmarried fathers have to establish paternity first
Although Alaska allows unwed parents to file for custody with the court, it does not allow fathers to seek custody unless they have established paternity over their children.
Unlike biological mothers, who the law automatically recognizes as legal parents, unmarried fathers do not automatically have legal parental status. Accordingly, they do not have parental rights and responsibilities.
To establish paternal rights in Alaska, both parents must sign a voluntary affidavit of paternity or obtain a judgment from court establishing the father’s legal status as a parent.
Focusing on the main goal
By understanding and navigating Alaska’s child custody laws and focusing on the child’s best interest, unmarried parents can successfully gain child custody in Alaska.