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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. William P. v. Taunya P. (8/26/2011) sp-6595

William P. v. Taunya P. (8/26/2011) sp-6595, 258 P3d 812

        Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC REPORTER. 
        Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 
        K   Street,   Anchorage,   Alaska   99501,   phone   (907)   264-0608,   fax   (907)   264-0878,   email 
        corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us. 

                 THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA 

WILLIAM P.,                                     ) 
                                                )       Supreme Court No. S-13993 
                        Appellant,              ) 
                                                )       Superior Court No. 4FA-07-02615 CI 
        v.                                      ) 
                                                )      O P I N I O N 
TAUNYA P.,                                      ) 
                                                )      No. 6595 - August 26, 2011 
                        Appellee.               ) 
                                                ) 

                Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth 
                Judicial District, Fairbanks, Michael A. MacDonald, Judge. 

                Appearances: Herbert M. Pearce, Anchorage, for Appellant. 
                Margaret O'Toole Rogers, Foster & Rogers, LLC, Fairbanks, 
                for Appellee. 

                Before: Carpeneti, Chief Justice, Fabe, Winfree, and Stowers, 
                Justices. [Christen, Justice, not participating.] 

                FABE, Justice. 

I.      INTRODUCTION 

                The superior court awarded sole legal custody of two children to their 

mother,   Taunya,   upon   her   motion   to   modify   custody.    Their   father,   William   (Bill), 

appeals, arguing that the superior court improperly weighed the best interests of the 

children.   Because we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the superior 

----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

court's conclusions and that the superior court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the 

superior court's decision. 

II.     FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS 

                Bill and Taunya P. were married on February 14, 1998. They had two sons, 

born in 1998 and 2000.   Bill and Taunya were divorced on December 29, 2008.  Under 

the terms of a settlement agreement, they shared legal and physical custody. At that time, 

both parties resided in Fairbanks.          Bill worked for a military contractor and Taunya 

worked as a teacher's aide.   Taunya had discussed moving to North Dakota, where she 

grew up. In Bill's and Taunya's divorce decree the superior court ordered that if Taunya 

were to move to North Dakota, their sons would spend the school year with her and 

summer and winter vacations with Bill. 

                Taunya   moved   to   Mandan,   North   Dakota,   a   suburb   of   Bismarck,   in 

August 2009.   Bill relocated to Anchorage.  On September 18, 2009, Taunya requested 

sole   legal   custody.    Taunya   alleged   that   Bill   had   attempted   to   intimidate   her   into 

remaining in Alaska.        She also alleged that, while she was still in Alaska, Bill had 

sometimes not allowed her to have contact with the children and refused to seek routine 

medical care for one son's asthma.         Taunya claimed that communication with Bill had 

deteriorated and that Bill had undermined the children's relationship with her.               Taunya 

requested that Bill be allowed only monitored telephonic visitation. 

                Bill responded and requested that the court award sole legal custody of the 

children to him.  Bill argued that Taunya's erratic behavior was to blame for many of the 

parties' problems.  Bill claimed that Taunya had limited his telephone contact with the 

children.   Bill claimed that on three occasions Taunya disconnected the telephone cord 

from the wall when his conversation with the children went past 9:00 p.m., the children's 

designated bedtime.       Bill alleged that Taunya refused to cooperate in setting up a web 

camera system so that he could communicate with his children. Bill disputed that he was 

                                                  -2-                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

at fault for their communication difficulties, pointing to sixty emails he sent to Taunya 

to bolster his argument that he was supporting communication between them. 

                On October 9, 2009, Taunya replied to Bill's opposition and cross-motion 

to modify custody.       She characterized Bill's opposition as "filled with irrelevant and 

inconsequential accusations against Taunya."  She again asserted that it was impossible 

for her to communicate with Bill, and that Bill, by disputing her reasons for moving to 

North Dakota, was "inappropriately involved in her choices."                 In responding to Bill's 

cross-motion, Taunya argued that it was in the best interests of the children to be with 

their mother.    Bill responded with an affidavit on December 7, 2009, asserting that the 

best interests of the children justified custody with him. 

                On   January   1,   2010,   Bill   remarried.   His   current   wife   has   an   ongoing 

custody dispute with her ex-husband over her two children from a previous marriage. 

                On   December   11,   2009,   the   superior   court   appointed   a   child   custody 

investigator.     The investigator had earlier served as the investigator during the parties' 

divorce. The investigator submitted his report on June 29, 2010. The investigator found 

that "[t]his is without a doubt the most contentious, unreasonable[,] and manipulative pair 

of parents with whom" he had ever dealt.  The investigator wrote that Bill "frequently 

employs      sarcasm"      towards    Taunya     and    "subtly    undermines"      her   through     his 

communications with their sons.  But the investigator also wrote that "Taunya is not the 

innocent victim . . . .    In phone calls and emails, she nitpicks, whines, complains, and 

appears to have difficulty taking responsibility for her actions."  The investigator noted 

that Taunya admitted slapping her children and admitted that she once "manhandled her 

aged    mother-in-law."       The    investigator    accordingly     wrote   that  "neither   parent   is 

appropriately supportive of the boys maintaining a loving relationship with the other 

parent." The report also stated both children "expressed strongly and repeatedly that they 

                                                   -3-                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

wished to live with their father for the bulk  of the year"; one boy explained that he 

preferred his father because he did not "like being yelled at and smacked." 

                The investigator concluded by noting that Taunya and Bill "do not appear 

to be able to have a civil discussion about the boys or to make mutually supportive 

decisions on behalf of their children."  The investigator recommended that the custody 

arrangement   be   reversed:   the   children  would   spend   the   school   year   with   Bill   and 

summers with Taunya.  The investigator based this recommendation on two rationales. 

First, he referred to "Taunya's growing harshness as a parent, especially her physical 

abuse of the boys and her escalation of the physical struggle with her son; these reactions 

are likely to increase as the boys enter their full adolescence with their own power issues 

and typical disrespectfulness."  The second rationale was the preference of the two boys 

to   be   with   their   father. The   investigator   also   recommended   that   the   parties   not 

communicate directly but instead use a "third party who will pass communications." 

                A hearing was held on July 20, 21, and 22.           The superior court held that 

"[b]ecause the court concludes that the parties['] history of noncooperation has adversely 

impacted the boys to the extent that a change in legal custody is necessary, Taunya's 

motion for sole custody is granted."  The superior court also reduced Bill's visitation to 

one week at Christmas and six weeks during the summer. 

III.    STANDARD OF REVIEW 

                Alaska Statute 25.20.110(a) provides that an "award of custody of a child 

or visitation with the child may be modified if the court determines that a change in 

circumstances requires the modification of the award and the modification is in the best 

interests of the child."  We will reverse a custody modification order "only if the record 
shows an abuse of discretion or if controlling factual findings are clearly erroneous."1 

        1       Long v. Long, 816 P.2d 145, 150 (Alaska 1991) (internal quotation marks 

                                                                                       (continued...) 

                                                  -4-                                              6595 

----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

An abuse of discretion in child custody awards occurs when "the trial court considers 

improper factors, fails to consider statutorily mandated factors, or gives too much weight 
to some factors."2    Factual findings are clearly erroneous if a review of the record leaves 

us "with the definite and firm conviction that the superior court has made a mistake."3 

The   trial   court's   factual   findings   enjoy   particular   deference   when   they   are   based 

"primarily on oral testimony, because the trial court, not this court, performs the function 
of judging the credibility of witnesses and weighing conflicting evidence."4 

IV.     DISCUSSION 

        A.      Custody 

                Bill does not contest that there was a substantial change of circumstances 

warranting modification of child custody in accordance with AS 25.20.110(a).                   But he 

argues that the trial court erred in finding that it would be in the boys' best interests for 

Taunya to have sole legal custody.   We disagree.  The trial court considered all relevant 

factors, and we cannot conclude that it clearly erred in its factual findings or abused its 

discretion in deciding to award custody to Taunya. 

                Alaska Statute   25.20.110(g) provides that "[i]n making a determination of 

the best interests of the child, the court shall consider the factors under AS 25.24.150(c)." 

Alaska Statute 25.24.150(c) lists nine factors: 

        1(...continued) 

omitted). 

        2       Id. 

        3       D.M. v. State, Div. of Family & Youth Servs., 995 P.2d 205, 207-08 (Alaska 

2000). 

        4       Misyura v. Misyura, 242 P.3d 1037, 1039 (Alaska 2010) (quoting Ebertz 

v. Ebertz, 113 P.3d 643, 646 (Alaska 2005)). 

                                                  -5-                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                (1)     the physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social 
                needs of the child; 

                (2)     the capability and desire of each parent to meet these 
                needs; 

                (3)     the child's preference if the child is of sufficient age 
                and capacity to form a preference; 

                (4)      the love and affection existing between the child and 
                each parent; 

                (5)     the   length   of   time   the   child   has   lived   in   a   stable, 
                satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining 
                continuity; 

                (6)     the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate 
                and encourage a close and continuing relationship between 
                the other parent and the child, except that the court may not 
                consider this willingness and ability if one parent shows that 
                the    other   parent   has   sexually    assaulted    or   engaged     in 
                domestic violence against the parent or a child, and that a 
                continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger 
                the health or safety of either the parent or the child; 

                (7)     any   evidence   of   domestic   violence,   child   abuse,   or 
                child neglect in the proposed custodial household or a history 
                of violence between the parents; 

                (8)     evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other 
                members of the household directly affects the emotional or 
                physical well-being of the child; 

                (9)	    other factors that the court considers pertinent. 

                1.	     Physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the 
                        children 

                The superior court found that the parties' sons "have suffered emotional 

damage because of the conflict between theirparents." The superior court found that Bill 

in particular was to blame for this conflict and therefore Taunya was "the only parent 

able to meet the children's special emotional needs." 

                                                   -6-	                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

                Bill argues that Taunya shared responsibility for the tension between them 

and   its   impact   on   the   children. But   we   have   reasoned   that   "joint   legal   custody   is 
inappropriate   if   the   parents  cannot   communicate   effectively."5         Because   there   was 

evidence that Bill was more to blame for his and Taunya's poor communication, it was 

not clearly erroneous for the superior court to use the first factor to support awarding sole 

legal custody to Taunya. 

                2.	     The capability and desire of each parent to meet the children's 
                        needs 

                The superior court distinguished between the children's emotional needs 

and their physical, educational, and social needs. 

                        a.	     Emotional needs 

                The superior court found that "Taunya is the only parent able to meet the 

children's special emotional needs."         The court explained that Bill's involvement with 

his current wife's custody battle would expose the children to more of the same domestic 

conflict they had already experienced.          The superior court emphasized Taunya's track 

record as a primary caregiver, and found that Bill's "unwillingness to support the boys 

emotionally   throughout   the   last   year   and   instead   to   advance   his   own   victimization 

narrative shows a complete lack of understanding of the boys['] needs." Diana Jacobsen, 

the boys' North Dakota therapist, testified that the boys had absorbed negative ideas 

about their mother that they had heard from their father.              Bill acknowledged that his 

frustration with Taunya's move to North Dakota probably "spilled over to the kids." Bill 

recorded several conversations between himself and the children and submitted those 

recordings to the superior court.        In these recordings Bill blames and criticizes Taunya 

for moving the children to North Dakota.             Because there was evidence that Bill was 

        5       Cusack v. Cusack, 202 P.3d 1156, 1160 (Alaska 2009). 

                                                  -7-                                               6595 

----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

harming   the   children's   emotional   needs   by   undermining   Taunya,   it   was   not   clearly 

erroneous to conclude that this factor favored Taunya. 

                         b.       Other needs 

                 The superior court separately found that Taunya was also "better able to 

meet   the   children's   physical,   educational,   and   social   needs."          The   superior   court 

emphasized Taunya's "track record" as the parent "who primarily cared for the boys 

during   the   marriage"   and   after   they   moved   to   North   Dakota.       As   to   the   children's 

physical needs, one witness testified that Bill obtained two dogs against the advice of the 

children's physicians.   And Taunya generally criticized Bill's failure to take their son's 

medical needs seriously.  Regarding the boys' social needs, Diana Jacobsen testified at 

the   hearing   that   Bill's   negative   comments   about   Taunya   could   result   in   unhealthy 

attitudes toward women later in life. 

                 Bill argues that based on his parenting performance during the parties' 

shared custody in Alaska, there is no basis to conclude that Taunya would be a superior 

caregiver.      Bill   notes   that   the   custody   investigator   found   that   the   children   could   be 

expected   to   function   in   either   parent's   custody   and   repeatedly   emphasizes   that   the 

custody investigator recommended that primary custody be with him. 

                 We have explained that "custody investigators are simply expert witnesses 

and that their recommendations should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in the same 
manner as testimony presented by other witnesses."6  In Ebertz v. Ebertz, we found that 

the   superior   court   did   not   abuse   its   discretion   by   rejecting   a   custody   investigator's 
analysis and recommendations.7  We stated that the "critical question . . . is not whether 

the superior court erred in rejecting the custody investigator's proposed decision, but 

         6       Ebertz, 113 P.3d at 647. 

         7       Id. 

                                                     -8-                                                  6595 

----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

whether the evidence as a whole supports the court's decision."8  Here, the child custody 

investigator acknowledged that the children could function in either parent's custody, and 

it was not clearly erroneous for the superior court to select the parent not recommended 

by the investigator. 

                3.      The children's preference 

                The superior court discounted the children's preference to live with Bill. 

According to the custody investigator, both children "expressed strongly and repeatedly 

that they wished to live with their father for the bulk of the year."  And Bill testified that 

the children voluntarily call him nearly every day.  But the superior court found that, at 

ages eleven and ten, the children did not have "sufficient age or capacity to express a 

preference."    Alaska Statute 25.24.150(c)(3) provides that a child's preference is to be 

considered "if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference."                    We 

conclude that the superior court's finding that the boys lacked the age and capacity to 

form a preference was not clearly erroneous.            But, of course, as the boys get older, the 
trial court will be more inclined to respect their preference.9 

        8       Id. at 647-48; see also Chase v. Chase, 109 P.3d 942, 945 (Alaska 2005) 

("We   have   previously   held   that   the   trial  court   is   not   obligated   to   adopt   a   custody 
investigator's recommendations."); Evans v. Evans, 869 P.2d 478, 480 (Alaska 1994) 
(upholding      trial  court's   decision   to  grant   custody    to  father  even    though    custody 
investigator recommended granting custody to mother); Nichols v. Mandelin, 790 P.2d 
1367, 1373 (Alaska 1990) (affirming trial court's decision to grant custody to mother 
even though trial court's decision contradicted custody investigator's recommendation 
that parents share custody). 

        9       See Valentino v. Cote, 3 P.3d 337, 340-41 (Alaska 2000) (affirming custody 

decision which placed "substantial reliance" on 14-year-old child's preference). 

                                                   -9-                                             6595
 

----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

        4.	     The love and affection existing between the children and each parent 

                The   superior   court   found   that   love   and   affection   existed   between   the 

children and both parents. 

                5.	     The     length    of  time    the   children    have    lived   in   a  stable, 
                        satisfactory   environment   and   the   desirability   of   maintaining 
                        continuity 

                The superior court found that the fifth factor of stability and continuity 

favored Taunya.       The court found that "the boys have done well in Taunya's primary 

care."    It found that the only area "where the boys are reported to have difficulty is in 

their relationship with their mother and this difficulty can be specifically attributed to 

Bill's negative leadership."   The child custody investigator found that the children were 

doing well in school, though they were having some difficulty making friends in North 

Dakota.     At the hearing, Taunya noted that she has many family connections in North 

Dakota.      Taunya also characterizes Bill's   home   as   "newly   formed and riddled with 

conflict" and notes that Bill also moved away from Fairbanks, where the boys had been 

raised since birth. 

                Bill disputes the existence of Taunya's positive "track record."  Bill notes 

that, at the time of the custody hearing, Taunya had had school-year custody for only one 

year, whereas Bill and Taunya had previously shared custody in Alaska for two years. 

Bill also argues that the North Dakota arrangement was so recent that it could not be 

relied on for purposes of establishing continuity.  Bill notes that the children spent their 

whole lives prior to the move in Alaska and that Taunya had family in Anchorage. 

                We have explained that the stability and continuity factor is not limited to 

geographic      continuity    and   stability,  but  instead   encompasses      the  "totality   of  the 

circumstances   [the   children]   were   likely   to   encounter   in   their   respective   parents' 

                                                 -10-	                                           6595
 

----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

homes."10  Given this broad inquiry, we conclude there was sufficient evidence to support 

the superior court's finding on this factor. 

                6.	     The   willingness   and   ability   of  each   parent   to   facilitate   and 
                        encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other 
                        parent and the children 

                The superior court found that the sixth factor of willingness to foster a close 

relationship with the other parent strongly favored Taunya.  The court found that while 

Taunya had promoted the children's relationship with Bill, Bill had only undermined 

their relationship with Taunya.          The custody investigator found that neither party was 

sufficiently supportive of a relationship with the other parent, but found fault with "Bill 

far more than Taunya."         The investigator found that "at times [Bill] . . .         has not been 

supportive of Taunya while on phone calls with the boys."                  But the investigator also 

found that Taunya had not adequately facilitated communication with Bill and "had not 

followed through on [e]nsuring regular video [instant messaging] between the boys and 

their father" and that she "had imposed the arbitrary time of 9 pm" to end conversations. 

                Bill argues that he allowed the children free access to a computer and phone 

to contact their mother whenever they chose, whereas Taunya limited the children's 

access   to   these   things.   In   their   interviews   with   the   custody   investigator,   the   boys 

confirmed Bill's characterization. Taunya counters that the boys could talk to their father 

every   day   at   8:30   p.m.   but   that   she   would   insist   on   a   9:00   bedtime. She   admits 

unplugging the phone cord to end these calls on several occasions, arguing that she did 

so only after Bill disregarded her previous requests to end the calls promptly at 9:00. 

        10      Evans, 869 P.2d at 482; see also Rooney v. Rooney, 914 P.2d 212, 217 

(Alaska 1996) ("Continuity and stability for a child come not only from staying in the 
same house, or going to the same school.  Consideration should also be given to social 
and emotional factors such as who the primary care-giver was for the child and whether 
the child would be separated from siblings or family members if he was placed with one 
parent rather than another."). 

                                                  -11-	                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

                  Bill   points   to   various   efforts   he  undertook   to   support   the   children's 

 relationship with Taunya.          Bill argues that he attended counseling on how to handle 

 blended families.  Bill also points to emails he sent to Taunya in which he attempted to 

 establish a spirit of cooperation. Taunya counters by arguing that the negative comments 

 Bill made about her to the boys were an attempt to undermine their relationship with her. 

 Taunya also notes various ways she has attempted to support the boys' relationship with 

 Bill, such as mailing him school work or encouraging the children to make him presents. 

                  We have reasoned that when parents reside at a great distance from each 
 other, it is appropriate to give greater weight to this factor.11              In Silvan v. Alcina, we 

 explained   that   "[i]t   is   essential   to   have   a   custodial   parent   willing   to   foster   an   open 

 relationship with the other parent when a great distance separates the children from the 
 non-custodial parent."12       In this case, there is evidence that both Bill and Taunya at times 

 supported and at other times sabotaged theboys' relationship with the other parent. Both 

 allowed   communication   between   the   children   and   the   other   parent   but   both   also 

 undermined   the   authority   of   the   other   parent   in   various   ways.     The   child   custody 

 investigator and Diana Jacobsen both testified that Bill was more culpable in his attempt 

 to   undermine   Taunya   than   Taunya   was   to   undermine   him,   and   it   was   not   clearly 

 erroneous for the superior court to have held that the sixth factor favored Taunya. 

                  7.	     Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect 
                          in   the   proposed   custodial   household   or   a   history   of   violence 
                          between the parents 

                 The superior court did not find there to be child abuse, child neglect, or 

domestic violence.       Taunya admits there was a "single instance of Taunya slapping her 

         11      Blanton v. Yourkowski, 180 P.3d 948, 951 (Alaska 2008); Silvan v. Alcina, 

 105 P.3d 117, 121 (Alaska 2005). 

         12       Silvan, 105 P.3d at 121. 

                                                    -12-                                                 6595 

----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

disrespectful son."     The superior court characterized Taunya's slapping as "not grossly 

inappropriate" because Bill and Taunya had "used corporal punishment before." Shortly 

after Taunya and the children arrived in North Dakota, Bill called North Dakota child 

protective services reporting verbal and physical abuse.  This contact resulted in several 

recommendations for Taunya but no continued involvement with protective services. 

Taunya argues that her slapping did not constitute abuse and that in any event she has 

responded to the slapping incident remorsefully and positively.               And Diana Jacobsen 

agreed that Taunya did not present the characteristics of a classic abuser and that she 

demonstrated appropriate remorse for the slapping incident.             The superior court did not 

commit clear error in finding there to be no physical abuse. 

                8.	     Evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other members 
                        of   the  household      directly   affects   the  emotional     or   physical 
                        well-being of the children 

                The   superior   court   did not   find   any   evidence   of   substance   abuse. The 
investigator also found no evidence of substance abuse.13 

        B.	     Visitation 

                The superior court shortened Bill's visitation to one week at Christmas and 

six weeks during the summer.  The superior court reasoned that "it is necessary to reduce 

the contact the boys have with their father in order to dilute the adverse impact he is 

having on them." 

                Bill argues that "the Superior Court's . . . reduction in his visitation rights 

was not supported by the record and should be reversed."             We view this as a very close 

question.    Bill argues that all "the experts in this case recommended there should be no 

reduction in" Bill's visitation.      Taunya counters that this statement is incorrect and that 

         13      We do not discuss the ninth factor because the superior court did not rely 

 on it. See McDanold v. McDanold, 718 P.2d 467, 469 (Alaska 1986) (explaining that the 
 superior court need only consider all relevant statutory best interests factors). 

                                                  -13-	                                            6595 

----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

Diana Jacobsen recommended reduced visitation.  But at the hearing, when the court 

asked Diana Jacobsen what the effect would be of restricting Bill's visitation, Jacobsen 

responded that she would not recommend reduced visitation at that time because the boys 

"need their father just as much as they need their mother." 

                We have explained that "the cooperation necessary to allow more liberal 
visitation   is   far   less   than   that   needed   for   joint   custody."14  We   have   also   held   that 

noncustodial parents "have certain residual rights and responsibilities including the right 
and responsibility of reasonable visitation."15  The treatiseModern Child Custody Practice 

explains that visitation is a "natural right of the noncustodial parent that may not be taken 
away absent extraordinary circumstances."16  And in Lone Wolf v. Lone Wolf, we found 

that the superior court had abused its discretion in denying the father's request to have 

visitation with his children while their mother worked week-long stints at her job as a 
correctional officer without making findings to support the restrictive award.17                   Here, 

while   we   conclude   that  the   superior   court   did   not   abuse   its   discretion   in   light   of  its 

findings about the harm to the boys' relationship with their mother caused by Bill's 

denigration of Taunya in front of them, we assume that the superior court will have the 

opportunity to revisit this question if Bill ceases his ongoing "campaign" to undermine 

Taunya.      And, as we have recognized, as the boys get older and more mature, their 

         14      Lone Wolf v. Lone Wolf, 741 P.2d 1187, 1191 (Alaska 1987). 

         15      J.F.E. v. J.A.S., 930 P.2d 409, 413 (Alaska 1996) (quoting AS 47.10.084(c)) 

 (internal quotation marks omitted). 

         16      1 JEFF ATKINSON, MODERN CHILD CUSTODY PRACTICE  5.2 (2d ed. 2010) 

 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also id.  at  5.13 ("The standard for placing 
 restrictions on visitation is similar to the standard for denial of visitation."). 

         17      Lone Wolf, 741 P.2d at 1190. 

                                                   -14-                                            6595
 

----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

reasoned preference regarding custody will be entitled to "substantial reliance" and is "not 
so lightly to be disregarded."18 

V.     CONCLUSION 

              We AFFIRM the decision of the superior court. 

        18     Valentino v. Cote, 3 P.3d 337, 341 (Alaska 2000); see also  Yvonne S. v. 

 Wesley H., 245 P.3d 430, 433, 435 (Alaska 2011) (using mature child's preference as a 
 "major factor" in making custody determination). 

                                             -15-                                        6595 
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