While some states carefully consider grandparents in their custody laws, Alaska is not among them. State law does address grandparents’ rights to visitation and custody in certain situations, but it is largely silent on this issue, leaving these decisions to courts on a case-by-case basis.
If you are concerned about your grandchildren and wish to seek custody, understanding state law may help you plan your actions. In general, it is easier to seek custody of your grandchildren by joining a custody dispute, such as during a divorce, than it is to seek custody while the parents are still together or when their custody is not already in question.
Joining a custody dispute
Both state legal code and the Alaska Supreme Court have made clear that parents should receive custody preference over their children unless they forfeit their rights to parent. A court will consider giving custody to a non-parent only when both parents have passed away, become incarcerated, become psychologically unfit or abandon, abuse or neglect their child.
Typically, this decision would arise during a divorce or when parents open their own custody dispute. Grandparents could then petition the court to enter the existing custody case.
Opening a custody dispute
If an existing custody case is not open, such as when the parents are still married or together, grandparents can still file for custody, but this is generally even more difficult to achieve. Alaska is hesitant to obstruct the rights of a parent to a child, and there are few clear laws concerning these custody cases. Some laws do allow a non-parent to open a custody dispute if the parents are unfit.
In order to obtain custody of your grandchildren, it is best if you have already been acting as a primary caregiver for them for a significant length of time. Keep in mind that you will likely need to demonstrate in court how the child’s parents have forfeited their rights and how living with you is in the child’s best interest.