from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska No. 3
AN-14-04278 CI, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Patrick
J. McKay, Judge.
Larissa Hail and Kris O. Jensen, Law Offices of Dan Allan
& Associates, Anchorage, for Appellant.
B., pro se, Anchorage, Appellee.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and
mother appeals from an order modifying custody, which awarded
sole legal and physical custody of her three children to the
father and limited her to supervised visitation pending the
children's full engagement in therapy. The mother argues
that the father failed to demonstrate a change in
circumstances that would justify a modification of custody
and that the resulting modification was not in the
children's best interests.
conclude that the superior court did not abuse its discretion
when it determined that the mother's interference with
the children's therapy amounted to a change in
circumstances and that the children's best interests were
served by an award of sole legal and physical custody to the
father while therapy took hold. We therefore affirm the
court's order modifying custody.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
S.B. and Scott B. married in 2002 and divorced in 2015. They
have three children born during the marriage, two boys and a
superior court issued a custody order in November 2014. The
court observed that "[t]he parties have had a highly
acrimonious separation," but it found "that both
parents express the desire to meet the children's needs
and that both are capable of meeting the basic needs of the
children." The court therefore ordered joint physical
and legal custody, with a legal custody exception for the
children's educational and therapeutic needs, on which
Scott had the final say. The court ordered Scott to enroll
the children in therapy and ordered both Georgette and Scott
to "try to alternately attend the children's
individual therapy and... fully cooperate and participate as
requested by the individual therapists."
2015 Scott filed a motion to compel Georgette to participate
in the children's therapy and to modify the 2014 order to
give him sole custody of the children. In October he moved to
hold Georgette in contempt for failing to allow the children
to participate in therapy, making disparaging remarks about
him to the children, exposing the children to litigation
matters, and failing to follow the court-ordered custody
calendar. The court found Georgette in contempt following a
hearing. The court discussed the therapy schedule for the
next few weeks and specified which parent would be taking the
children to each appointment. Looking forward to the
scheduled custody modification hearing in three months'
time, the court stated: "If you don't keep these
kids in therapy, I will do what's necessary to make sure
they're in therapy. I cannot be any clearer, and I want
the court record  to reflect that I am looking directly at
Ms. [S.B.] when I am saying this."
January 2016 the court held an evidentiary hearing on
Scott's modification motion. The court did not change the
existing joint custody arrangement, only its day-to-day
execution. The court noted its continued displeasure with
Georgette's failure to support the children's therapy
but said it would give the parties one more chance to
cooperate with therapy and other activities, or it would be
forced to award full custody to one parent.
The March 2017 Custody Modification
again moved to modify custody in November 2016. The court
held a three-day trial the following March and heard from 21
witnesses, including the children's former therapists.
The court then put its findings and conclusions on the
record. The court found that all three children had "a
special need for psychotherapy" but that Georgette, by
her "fail[ure] to support past therapeutic
involvement," had "interfered with a smooth
therapeutic intervention for the children." The court
found that Georgette's "confrontational]
communication style andrefus[al] to accept the realities of
the scope of assistance required [had] interfered with the
children's schooling in the past and the children's
therapy, both past and present." It found that
Georgette's "lack of support for therapy was
conveyed to the children through either words, actions[, ] or
attitudes in such a manner that the children did not feel
that they [had] to cooperate in the therapeutic process and
... [that] disrupted the therapeutic process."
court noted that "Denali Family Services and Counseling
Solutions [were] no longer an option for these children, ...
in no small part . . . due to [Georgette's] sabotaging
the therapeutic relationship." But the court found it
"interesting" that the children had been more
involved "when [Georgette] chose and supported" a
therapist at Southcentral Foundation in December 2016, after
Counseling Solutions had ceased its sessions. The therapist
Georgette selected could not continue beyond four sessions
because of Southcentral's eligibility criteria, and Scott
was attempting to establish "another therapeutic family
relationship, including wraparound services, with Anchorage
Community Mental Health." But the court was concerned
that Georgette did not "fully support these services,
and there [was] already indication that [the older boy was]
resistant to therapy."
court concluded, "[r]egretfully," that the needed
therapy would not "take hold" unless the children
were given time to be "fully engaged in the therapeutic
process" outside their mother's negative influence.
It found that Scott, unlike Georgette, had "always been
open to receiving professional assistance." The court
awarded "both sole legal and sole physical custody of
the children" to Scott and, "at least
temporarily," limited Georgette to supervised contact
with the children. The court stated its "intention ...
to use this period of  supervised contact between mother
and the children as something of a respite to allow the
children to begin to fully engage in therapy." It
required Georgette to "obtain a psychological
evaluation" and encouraged her to "follow any
reasonable recommendations made in" that evaluation,
"which will go a long way towards her regaining
unsupervised and frequent contact with the children."
Elaborating on this requirement in a subsequent written
order, the court authorized Georgette to move "for
unsupervised visitation upon providing certification from a
professional versed in high-conflict parenting that
[Georgette] has acquired both a clear understanding of, and
intent to apply, healthy and appropriate boundaries with the
children in both her communications and non-verbal cues about
their father and their third-party providers."
appeals, arguing that the superior court erred in finding a
substantial change in circumstances and, assuming there was
such a change, abused its discretion in deciding that the
children's best interests ...