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Parks v. Parks

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 7, 2009

Tracy H. PARKS, Appellant,
v.
Robert J. PARKS, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied Sept. 3, 2009.

Page 296

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 297

Allison E. Mendel and Mary A. Gilson, Mendel & Associates, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Robert J. Parks, pro se, Anchorage.

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

I. INTRODUCTION

The trial court presiding over the divorce proceeding between Tracy Parks and Robert Parks granted the parties joint legal custody of their daughter. Tracy argues that the trial court erred because it did not apply AS 25.24.150(g)'s rebuttable presumption against awarding joint legal custody to a parent with a history of perpetrating domestic violence. She also argues that the trial court erred because (1) it should not have awarded Robert a " self-executing" future change from supervised to unsupervised visitation; (2) the award of joint legal custody conflicts with a long-term domestic violence protective order that limits contact between the parties; (3) the court should have put its oral findings in

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writing; and (4) the court should have specified how the visitation schedule will change if Tracy moves out of state.

We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand, because further factual findings are necessary to determine whether subsection .150(g) applies, and because it was error to permit Robert's visitation to become unsupervised without a further order. But joint legal custody does not necessarily conflict with the long-term protective order, and the trial court permissibly declined to reduce its oral findings to writing and to specify how visitation will change if Tracy moves out of state.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Robert and Tracy Parks were married in February 2005. Their daughter was born in August 2006.

On April 14, 2007, Robert assaulted Tracy. He threw things at her and tore off some of her clothes, resulting in multiple bruises. On April 18 Tracy was granted a short-term domestic violence protective order barring Robert from initiating contact with Tracy or her parents. A long-term domestic violence protective order was granted on May 7 barring Robert from contacting Tracy or her parents. The long-term protective order has been modified several times since, but these same restrictions still apply. The long-term protective order will remain in place until February 11, 2010.

Robert and Tracy separated the day of the April 2007 assault. Tracy and their daughter continued to live on Elmendorf Air Force Base, where Tracy is an enlisted member of the United States Air Force. On May 17 Robert pleaded no contest to assault and was given a one-year suspended imposition of sentence, was ordered to pay a fine, and was required to have no contact with Tracy (except for telephonic contact when she initiated it) and complete a state-approved twenty-four-week domestic violence intervention program within six months. On May 31 Robert was banned from the base because staff believed he was a danger to employees and possibly a danger to Tracy.

Tracy filed for divorce on July 3, 2007.

On October 3 the trial court conducted a long-term protective order modification hearing in conjunction with a custody hearing. Tracy alleged in the superior court that Robert violated the long-term protective order multiple times by contacting Tracy and telephoning her mother.

The divorce case went to trial in November 2007. Both parties were then unrepresented. Robert admitted at trial that he has " anger issues." He admitted he once threw water on Tracy Before the April 2007 assault, was fired for throwing water on his boss, and broke a man's nose. A former wife of Robert's testified at this divorce trial that Robert had assaulted her once. Robert testified that he did not assault her. As of the time of the divorce trial, Robert had begun, but had not completed, the required domestic violence program. At the end of the trial, the court granted the divorce and ordered division of the property.

The trial court issued oral and written findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding custody on November 19. The court found that there was evidence of " domestic violence ... or a history of violence." The oral and written findings and conclusions did not mention AS 25.24.150(g).[1]

The trial court granted primary physical custody to Tracy and awarded the parties joint legal custody. It issued a visitation plan initially allowing only supervised visitation, but providing for an automatic change to unsupervised visitation when Robert completed a state-approved domestic violence treatment program. The court orally ordered that Robert provide Tracy and the court with evidence showing that the domestic violence treatment program he was ...


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