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FAQs For Parents: How Domestic Violence Can Impact Custody Decisions

On July 1, 2004, the custody and visitation law changed in family cases when there is any history of domestic violence between the parents or between one of the parents and his or her current or past domestic partner. This page tries to provide some basic information about the new law. However, as with any new law, there are likely to be aspects that are open to interpretation. Please consult with a lawyer to learn more about how the court might interpret this law in your situation.

What does the new law say?

If a parent has a history of domestic violence against one of the following people:

it is likely that the court will not give that parent custody of the child. However, under certain circumstances, that parent may be allowed some visitation.

What is a "history of domestic violence"?

The law says a "history of domestic violence" is when:


Is there a difference between custody and visitation?

Yes. Custody means the rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. This includes legal custody which is the ability to make legal decisions about the children. It also includes physical custody which is where the children physically live. Visitation is the right of a parent and child to contact and visit one another when the child is residing with the other parent.

If a parent has a history of causing domestic violence, is there any way for that parent to get custody?

Maybe. A parent with a history of causing domestic violence may be able to get custody by proving:


AND either


Can a parent with a history of causing domestic violence get visitation with the child(ren)?

Yes, but it will only be unsupervised if the court finds that the parent with the history of causing domestic violence:

Otherwise, the court may only allow supervised visitation, and only if the parent with the history of causing domestic violence has completed:

What if both parents have a history of causing domestic violence?

The court should then award custody to:


Does this law affect all custody decisions?

Yes. It affects custody decisions in all dissolution, divorce and custody cases. This includes new cases, current cases that haven't yet had final papers and, under certain circumstances, it may apply to old cases that are being modified.

What happens if both parents agree about the custody and visitation, but there has been a history of domestic violence?

Even if both parents agree, the judge may not allow custody or visitation to the parent with a history of causing domestic violence. For example, this means that a judge may not accept a dissolution agreement if one parent has a history of causing domestic violence. Whether a judge will accept an agreement depends on the specifics of the case and how the judge interprets the new law.

Should I talk to a lawyer if there is a history of domestic violence?

Yes. You should talk with a lawyer about how this law will impact your case. Understanding what the law says and how it applies to your situation can be confusing. Under any circumstances, the primary goal should be deciding what is in the best interests of the children; this new law adds an additional layer to the court's analysis and a lawyer can help you understand how that may impact your case.

What can the Family Law Self-Help Center do for me?

How this law will affect your case depends on the specific facts of your situation. The Family Law Self-Help Center cannot help you understand this law, but we can help you understand court procedure and the forms and instructions for your case. Please call (907) 264-0851 (in Anchorage) or toll-free (866) 279-0851 (in Alaska, but outside the Municipality of Anchorage).

Rev. 8 December 2015
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