When the going gets tough in family matters, sometimes the situation arises where the grandparents may be the ideal guardian for a child or children whose parents are otherwise unable to provide a good living situation.

In Alaska, it is possible for grandparents to obtain a court ruling to gain custody of a child; however, there is an important distinction between custody and visitation. In addition, the process for grandparents to get custody is different than the process for parents.

State legislation regarding custody for grandparents

 Unlike with parents, there is not any law in Alaska that specifically addresses a grandparent’s custody rights. Such a decision is assessed by the courts on a case-by-case basis. The court may rule to grant custody to a grandparent if the child’s welfare would be at risk if he or she remained in custody of his or her parent or if the parent is unfit. If neither of these criteria are apparent, then a parent will always be given preference over any non-parent when determining custody.

State legislation regarding visitation for grandparents

 While the law does not provide a particular direction regarding custody, there is a statute that applies to a grandparent’s visitation rights. In order to petition the court for visitation rights, the statute states that two conditions must be fulfilled. It must be determined to be within the child’s best interest for him or her to have visitation with the grandparent, and there must be evidence that the grandparent has at least attempted to establish ongoing personal contact.

While it may be more difficult to provide a basis for custody rights, concerned grandparents can rest assured that the state has a legislative process in place to provide an opportunity for visitation rights.