All parents, including fathers, have a right to a relationship with their child. In many states, this right is enforced by state laws, and a father’s rights in Alaska is no exception. In addition to fathers having a right to a relationship with their child, the child also has a right to be connected and in contact with both parents including the father regardless of the parents’ relationship. In most cases, the Alaska family law court system cannot impose on this right unless it is necessary to protect the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing – in these cases, the court may limit the father’s contact with the child.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Traditionally, courts have emphasized the importance of the bond between child and mother, but modern court decisions have also placed importance on the bond between father and child. Fathers are capable caretakers and can also serve as strong disciplinarians for children, which is important for the child’s overall upbringing. Additionally, fathers who are involved, supportive, and affectionate contribute greatly to the child’s cognitive and social development as well as language and speech development. It’s because of this that courts attempt to keep the father involved.
Establishing Paternity in Alaska
The act of establishing a child’s paternity is a very important step for parents in almost all Alaska child custody cases. This is important for a number of different reasons including an easier time setting up a custody or child support order. For fathers, establishing paternity helps establish their Alaska father’s rights as a parent and their ability to spend time with the child. Additionally, having legally established paternity means fathers sometimes have an easier time enforcing their rights.
In the state of Alaska, there are two means in which to establish paternity. First is by both parents signing a voluntary paternity acknowledgment – this is where both individuals agree who the child’s father is. State law dictates hospitals must make this information available to any parents who are unmarried when the child is born. Once this voluntary paternity form is signed, the father’s name can then be added to the child’s birth certificate, and his paternity is legally established for the child.
The other way paternity can be established is through a paternity lawsuit or paternity action. This is when the child’s mother and alleged father cannot agree on paternity. Under Alaska law, any of the individuals listed below can bring an action for paternity to the court:
- The child’s mother
- Any man who believes he is the child’s father
- Any man identified as the child’s father
- The individual with whom the child is living (the child’s custodian)
- Child services officer
- Child support enforcement officer
An action for paternity can be brought forward either in the family court system or through any government agency providing services for the child – in all cases, both a ruling from the court and a ruling from the agency is equally valid. Additionally, both the Alaska family court system and the agency have the authority to require the father, mother, and child to participate in genetic testing to establish the child’s paternity scientifically.
Alaska courts prefer to obtain this genetic testing to determine paternity, but if the results are inconclusive or unavailable, the court considers other forms of evidence to establish paternity. An example of this is the court hearing testimony that establishes the relationship between the father and child and how the father has treated and raised the child. In cases where the putative father is convicted of raping the mother, the court does not have the right to pursue paternity testing unless the child’s mother has requested testing.
Best Interest of the Child Standard in Alaska
Alaska judges are sometimes responsible for determining the custody and visitation schedule for a child whose parents are no longer together by divorce or other means. The standard guiding this decision making process is the “best interests of the child” standard, which is one that’s been adopted by most states across the country. When making decisions regarding child custody and visitation, the judge considers a number of factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Child’s physical needs
- Child’s emotional needs
- Relationship between the child and both parents
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s willingness to care for the child
- Each parent’s financial situation
- Each parent’s living conditions
- Each parent’s ability to communicate with one another
- Each parent’s willingness to communicate with one another
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
Alaska judges make every attempt to keep fathers as involved in their child’s life as possible, given the positive impact their presence has on children’s upbringing. However, should the father’s involvement in the child’s life be considered harmful or his involvement go against the child’s best interests, the judge makes other arrangements – these arrangements may include limiting visitation, having supervised visitation, or barring contact between the father and the child. This often happens in cases when abuse is present.
Alaska Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Both a child’s biological parents have an equal right to petition the court for visitation and custody. This equal right exists regardless of whether the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth or not. Like almost all the decisions surrounding Alaska child custody cases, a family court judge in Alaska uses the best interests of the child standard to make the best possible decisions for the child’s wellbeing and upbringing including keeping the father involved in the child’s life.
Father’s Right to Child Support
In Alaska child custody cases where a custodial and non-custodial parent is established, the non-custodial parent is often ordered to pay the custodial parent child support. This monetary support is meant to help the custodial parent with the expenses of raising the child, such as providing shelter, food, and clothing. Fathers who are named the custodial parent in a custody case have just as much right to receive child support payments as mothers who are named the custodial parent.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
In some child custody cases, a father’s rights in Alaska are brought under attack, and often the father is not wholly aware of what his Alaska father’s rights are. An attorney who specializes in family law and fathers’ rights in child custody cases can often be an invaluable resource for fathers going through a child custody case. These professionals are able to explain what rights the father has under Alaska state law and what needs to be done to ensure those rights are upheld. Often, having a lawyer specializing in this area can help secure a more positive outcome for the father in a child custody case.