Your Family Matters to Us
We have the complete toolbox to help you build your future.
Our focus is on families. Anchorage family law lawyer Stefan Otterson can help you manage any family situation, no matter how complex or delicate, and we will make sure you get the right kind of assistance. Our goals:
- Listen first.
- Identify the right approach for you, whether it’s litigation, traditional legal settlement, mediation, collaborative law, or simply good advice.
- Don’t make matters worse.
- Serve you in a fast, friendly, and cost-efficient manner.
- Do what you ask us to do.
- Keep you informed at every step.
When you meet with us, we don’t start out with preconceived notions of what you need. In some cases, you will need representation in court, but we try to keep the door open to solve problems in other ways. We understand the downside to litigation, and we do everything we can to minimize the damage it can cause.
If you have to go to court, everyone should be able to have a good family law attorney on their side. Even the smartest, most capable people will have difficulty navigating the many technicalities and risks present in litigation. We do our best to make full representation affordable through wise use of highly educated and skilled staff. What happens to those that can’t afford a family law lawyer in Anchorage? We offer advice and services to those who represent themselves. Be sure to visit our Family Resource Center for links to information related to self-representation. Our trial preparation services include consultations with an attorney and/or paralegal, document preparation, editing, and letter writing.
Our firm handles all types of family law matters, including divorce, child custody, property division, and adoption. Divorce is one of the most common family law issues with which families must contend. Each state applies its own laws regarding these matters, and Alaska has several unique laws, such as permitting spouses to opt into community property rules during the marriage instead of the usual equitable distribution rules that apply during a divorce. Also, military service members and their spouses have different options for where they can file for a divorce. Service members who are continuously stationed at an Alaska military base for a minimum of 30 days are considered Alaska residents for the purpose of filing for a divorce. Alaska has its own law to protect service members in addition to the federal laws that apply.
Some family law matters can be settled through mediation, while others are appropriate for a collaborative process. A family law attorney can help Alaska residents determine the right approach for them. We can work with you whether you live in Anchorage or any of Alaska’s other communities. Sometimes family members are unable to work out their disagreements through alternative methods, and they must have the court resolve their differences and issue orders about important concerns. We can help with that in a number of different ways.
Divorce or separation can be challenging for spouses and their children. In some instances, a simple dissolution is possible, or it may be possible to hammer out an agreement in mediation. In other cases, a collaborative process to resolve differences without litigation may be appropriate. With a collaborative law approach, you will have an attorney who can advise you confidentially and advocate for your interests while assisting you in getting to a settlement. However, if a spouse or former partner cannot negotiate in good faith during the collaborative law process, you will need to pursue litigation.
Children need to have lived in Alaska for a minimum of six months for the court to be authorized to make decisions about them, but there are certain exceptions to this rule. There are two concepts covered by child custody, which are physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody governs when the child is physically with each parent. Legal custody covers important decisions about the child, like which school they should attend, which medical procedures they should receive, and whether they should have any religious affiliation. Often, courts give the parents joint decision making authority, but there are situations in which there may be sole decision maker. If you want to change a custody arrangement, you will need to get the custody order modified. Our Alaska family law attorneys can help you seek to obtain or modify a custody or visitation order. We can help you whether you live in Anchorage or elsewhere. We can even represent people who live out of state if child custody jurisdiction is in the Alaska Courts.
In Alaska, any person can be adopted, but if the adoptee is 10 or older, he or she must consent in most cases. Additionally, there is a home residency process before the adoption will be finalized.
We handle all kinds of adoptions, including private adoptions and adoptions through agencies. Often, a stepparent decides to assume financial and legal responsibility for a spouse’s child. The procedures for these adoptions are often more straightforward than procedures for other kinds of adoptions. We also handle contested adoptions, such as those involving grandparents or others. When a child has Alaska Native or Indian ancestry, it is necessary to ensure that the requirements imposed by the Indian Child Welfare Act are satisfied.
A guardianship is a legal arrangement that offers protection to vulnerable children or adults. Sometimes family members disagree about whether a guardianship is appropriate, and it can be critical to seek out an experienced and compassionate family law lawyer in the Anchorage area. We can handle the guardianship in its entirety or provide advice on an hourly basis.
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral and independent third party, known as a mediator, helps people with an adversarial relationship come to an agreement. Often, it is an alternative dispute resolution method that is used for issues arising during a divorce, such as child custody or property distribution. The mediator will not advocate for either party or make decisions for the parties, even if he or she has a background in the law. In most cases, mediation is less expensive than going to trial. It allows spouses to make productive decisions and develop creative options to resolve difficult issues.
Often, prolonged litigation is not conducive to maintaining good relationships with people whom you once regarded as family. Litigation can exacerbate existing problems. Accordingly, for many people, choosing a collaborative law approach to a divorce is a good choice from the outset. The advantages of a collaborative law approach include that the client is in charge of the process, rather than the lawyer or judge, but an Anchorage family law lawyer will be involved to help you negotiate and protect your interests. Both of the parties in a collaborative law approach need to be very committed to solving problems in a way that will work for both parties. Only a small number of lawyers in Alaska are trained in this process.
The juvenile delinquency system differs significantly from the adult criminal justice system. Sometimes, even though the subjects of the system are kids, the legal consequences for small offenses can be worse. Often, first offenses are handled informally when someone is arrested for a crime and is under age 18. If you are accused of an act of delinquency, you may be referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice. The Department may give you a warning or divert you from the formal court procedures through restitution, community service, or informal probation. However, there is no guarantee that you will be diverted to an informal process, and a number of factors can affect the outcome, so it is important to seek counsel before talking to a prosecutor.
The Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) has several programs intended to support families, youth, and children. OCS workers can remove children from their homes without a court order and put them in a safe place if the workers have reason to believe that the children are not safe in their homes, and an in-home safety plan cannot be used. In some cases, OCS petitions the court for state custody or supervision of a child, and his or her parents will be notified of the court hearing, at which they have an opportunity to be heard. If your children are taken by OCS, you may face serious and lasting consequences. It is critical to hire an attorney with a good reputation to represent you in front of the agency and in any court petition for custody or supervision of your child.
Most often, we represent relatives who are trying to resolve problems through the family instead of the state. We can help relatives get or keep placement of children. If a parent wants a relative to adopt, we can work with OCS to make that possible.
Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney in the Anchorage Area
Very few law firms have the skills to provide the wide range of services we offer. Mediation and Collaborative Law require training most attorneys do not have. Collaborative Law offers a team approach which gives maximum support in the most efficient, productive way. Be sure to visit our pages dedicated to those approaches for more information. No one else offers the personal touch that family law lawyer Stefan Otterson provides. Call us to find out how different the Otterson Law & Mediation, P.C. experience is right from the start.