What are Alaska Family Court Records?
Alaska Family Court records are the official documents providing details of hearings and trials conducted in Family Law Courts in Alaska. In addition to dockets and case files, these records may include court transcripts, orders, summons, and arrest warrants. Family law cases include those involving domestic relations matters. Their records are usually maintained by clerks of the courts where the cases were heard. Thus, interested persons may find Alaska family court records in the judicial district where the case was heard. Compared to other types of civil case records, family law records are more likely to be sealed and confidential in Alaska.
What is a Family Court in Alaska State?
Alaska State has no separate family courts. Rather, domestic relations cases are heard in the state’s Superior Courts. In Alaska, the Superior Court is the primary trial court. While it handles most family law cases, the state’s District Courts also have jurisdiction over certain cases involving family matters. These include domestic violence cases and emergency cases involving children.
The jurisdiction of the family law division of Alaska Superior Court covers the following types of cases:
- Divorce, dissolution, and annulment of marriages and other forms of domestic partnerships
- Parental custody
- Visitation rights
- Child support
- Child custody for unmarried parents
- Spousal support
- Paternity disputes
- Change of Name
- Foster care placement
How to Serve Family Court Papers in Alaska State
The process of serving family court papers in Alaska involves delivering copies of legal documents to the other party named in a lawsuit or their legal counsel. Alaska Rules of Court have strict regulations guiding the process of serving litigation documents. Improperly conducted Service of Process could lead to a case dismissal before the plaintiff has had the opportunity to present it in court. In Alaska, the Service of Process mandates that every party in litigation:
- Receives notice of filings by the opposing party;
- Receives notice of court rulings;
- Is given an opportunity to respond to filings; and
- Is given an opportunity to present their side at hearings or trials
Occasionally, the plaintiff is not legally bound to serve the opposing party (or attorney) a copy of every document filed with the court. This rule applies in cases of an ex parte (one-sided) protective order for domestic violence such as a stalking or sexual assault. In these exceptions, the plaintiff is permitted to file a petition with the court without serving the opposing party. Where an ex parte protective order is approved, the court serves the other party a copy of the order in addition to the notice of a hearing if applicable. In addition, documents in a protective order case are served by a police officer or state trooper to the defendant.
The two approved methods of serving court documents in Alaska are by:
- Certified mail (first-class federal mail services are not allowed)
- Process server
Certified Mail: This is the more affordable option. The plaintiff only needs to pay the fees for restricted delivery and return receipt. A return receipt provides a guarantee that the defendant received the documents served. It must be sent back and filed with the court. The plaintiff receives a “green card” as evidence that the Service of Process was successful.
Process Server: When serving court papers in Alaska by this means, the plaintiff may pay up to $65 to complete the service. It is also the only option available if the defendant refuses to sign for delivery by certified mail. Alaska does not permit persons initiating legal actions to serve their own court papers. They must hire process servers for this purpose.
Hiring a process server requires completing the Service Instructions, CIV 615 form. The process server gets this form along with the documents to be served. The server also provides a completed Proof of Service form to the plaintiff after service to the defendant is successful. Alaska maintains a list of authorized civilian process servers from which plaintiffs can choose.
After serving the opposing party, due diligence requires that the plaintiff informs the judge of how and when they served the litigation documents. This is usually done in writing and involves tendering a certificate of service (or a Proof of Service) in Family Court. The information on the certificate of service includes the:
- Date that the plaintiff served the other side
- List of documents served
- Name of the process server
- Name of the person served
- Name and signature of the plaintiff.
Failing to complete all of the information may render a process of service invalid at the pre-trial stage and the court may reject that filing. This may stall the case until the plaintiff has correctly filed a certificate of service.
What is Contempt of Court in Family Law in Alaska?
Contempt of court refers to willfully disobeying a court order. Alaska Family Courts will consider failure to abide by court-ordered divorce, child custody, and child/spousal support settlements as contempt of court. Other common civil contempt in family law cases include disobeying restraining orders and failing to appear in court after being served.
Alaska also recognizes Contempt in the Presence of Court. This describes conduct interfering with court processes in the presence of a judge. The judge can summarily punish this type of contempt. For an indirect contempt occurring outside court, the judge will request the accused to appear in court and defend their conduct. The judge may also issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the individual concerned. Alaska Family Courts can punish contempt of court with fines up to $5,000.
Are Family Court Records Public Records in Alaska?
Yes. Family Court records in Alaska are available for public inspection except for those related to juvenile matters. These records are confidential and only parties (and their lawyers) involved in these cases are allowed access to such records. A member of the public cannot access these records unless authorized by a court order. An Alaska Family Court may also seal some records at the request of the parties involved. This is a common request for divorce cases where one or both parties ask that the court make certain documents confidential. Commonly sealed family law case records include those containing financial information and the identities of minors.
How to Access Family Court Records in Alaska
Members of the public can access Family Court records in Alaska for a fee. The requester will have to submit a request to the office of the clerk of the court where the case was filed. A completed request form can be submitted in person or by email, fax, or mail. The first copy of any record requested costs $5.00, while additional copies requested at that time cost $3.00 each. For certified copies, the fee is $10.00 for the first certified copy. It costs an extra $3.00 for every additional certified copy of the same record. This only applies to records that are requested at the same time.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
In Alaska, family court records usually include Alaska marriage records and Alaska divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.