State/Prov.  : Alaska

Case name    : Red Elk v. McBride

Case #          : No. S–15240

Court             : Alaska Supreme Court

Reviewed by : Laura W. Morgan

Main issue     : Child Custody

Trial court’s failure to explain why Indian father of child born out of wedlock should bear the full burden of visitation costs, or consider or conduct an analysis regarding the parties’ finances in the context of allocating visitation expenses, constituted an abuse of discretion, and necessitated remand for consideration of what division of visitation expenses would be just and proper, and whether it would be just and proper to allocate some or all of child’s Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends towards visitation costs. Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded mother sole legal custody of child born out of wedlock to Indian father and non-Indian mother, and in ordering mother to begin educating the child about child’s Indian heritage; the trial court found that cooperation and meaningful communication between mother and Indian father was not possible because communication was strained by age and outlook and neither party was likely to change, and the effect of the court’s order was to enable both parents to be invested in child’s cultural education, which was in the child’s best interest.

Laura W. Morgan is the owner and operator at Family Law Consulting in Charlottesville, Virginia.Laura is available for consultation, brief writing and research on family law issues throughout the country. She can be reached through her website.