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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Caroline J. v. Theodore J. (8/28/2015) sp-7044

Caroline J. v. Theodore J. (8/28/2015) sp-7044

         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@akcourts.us.  



                   THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA  



CAROLINE J.,                                           )  

                                                       )        Supreme Court No. S-15693  

                  Appellant,                           )  

                                                       )        Superior Court No. 3PA-12-01623 CI  

         v.                                            )  

                                                       )        O P I N I O N  

THEODORE J.,                                           )  

                                                       )        No. 7044 - August 28, 2015  

                  Appellee.                            )  

                                                       )  



                  Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third  

                                                                   

                  Judicial District, Palmer, Vanessa White, Judge.   



                  Appearances:  Johnny  O.  Gibbons,  Dickerson  &  Gibbons,  

                  Anchorage,  for  Appellant.  Theodore  J.,  pro  se,  Palmer,  

                  Appellee.   



                  Before:  Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and  

                                                

                  Bolger, Justices.  



                  STOWERS, Justice.  



I.       INTRODUCTION 



                                                                                             1 

                                                                                                

                   At the end of Theodore J. and Caroline J.'s marriage,  the superior court 



granted Caroline a long-term domestic violence protective order and awarded her interim  



                                                                          

sole physical and legal custody of the couple's three children.  During the pendency of  



                                           

the divorce and custody trial, the superior court ordered reunification counseling for  



         1        Pseudonyms and initials have been used to protect the family's privacy.  


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

Theodore and the children, but Caroline continually failed to bring the children to the  

                       



counseling sessions, and the court found she had engaged in parental alienation.  After  



Theodore completed a domestic violence intervention program, the court awarded the  



                                                                                                                        

parents shared physical and joint legal custody of the children.  Caroline appeals.  We  



affirm the superior court's custody order.  



II.       FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS  



          A.       Facts  



                                                                                                                     

                   Theodore J. and Caroline J. married in June 2004. Theodore works for the  



                      

United  States  Postal  Service  (USPS)  and  Caroline  is  a  homemaker.    Caroline  and  



                              

Theodore had three children during their relationship:  Thomas, born in 2003, Katrina,  



born in 2004, and Taylor, born in 2006.  



                                                                                                          

                   The parties had been having trouble with their marriage and participated in  



a  marriage  workshop  through  their  church  in  2008.    The  couple  continued  to  have  



problems after the workshop.  



                                                                                                          

                   In May 2012 the parties' problems appear to have worsened.  Caroline filed  



a petition for a long-term domestic violence protective order on May 22, alleging that a  



                                                                                                               

few days earlier she and Theodore got into an argument and he hit her with a pot.  On  



May 25 Theodore filed for divorce.  



          B.       Proceedings  



                                                        

                   In August 2012 the court held an evidentiary hearing on Caroline's petition  



                                                                                                         

for a protective order.  The court heard testimony from Caroline and from Rhonda Street,  



the  domestic  violence  investigator  who  processed  her  petition.    Street  testified  that  



                                                                                        

Caroline had presented as very nervous.  And she testified that Theodore continually  



                                                                                               

called Caroline's phone.  Caroline alleged  that Theodore had hit her with a pot on May  



18, a Friday.  She testified that immediately afterward she left and went to a friend's  



house, where she stayed until the following Monday.  She testified that on Tuesday she  



                                                             -2-                                                      7044
  


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

filed  her  petition  for  a  domestic  violence  protective  order.    Theodore  denied  the  



allegations.  He testified that on May 18 Caroline went to Anchorage with a friend and  



                                                                                                 

he came into the city to pick her up on Monday.  He said that she left Monday night to  



      

get a snack with the children but did not return.  He testified that he repeatedly called her  



                             

phone the next day trying to determine where she and the children were.  Theodore also  



                            

testified that after he told Caroline he wanted a divorce she threatened to kill herself.  



                    The superior court granted the petition for a long-term domestic violence  



                                                                                               

protective order and ordered professionally supervised visitation.  Later, the court issued  



                                                          

an interim custody order awarding sole physical and legal custody to Caroline based on  



the long-term domestic violence protective order.  



                   During   the   same   time   period,   the   children's   therapist,   Linda   Ann  



Rasmussen,  notified  the  Office  of  Children's  Services  (OCS)  that  she  thought  the  



children  had  been  abused.    During  the  OCS  interviews,  Theodore  admitted  to  



accidentally  cutting  the  youngest,  Taylor,  while  spanking  him,  because  the  spoon  



                                                                                        

Theodore was using broke. The OCS worker testified at trial that her supervisor directed  



                                                                 

her  to  substantiate  the  abuse  even  though  she  believed  the  two  older  children  were  



coached.  



                                           

                   During the first day of testimony, Rasmussen testified the children told her  



that  since  their  parents'  separation  they  believed  their  father  had  stolen  their  bikes,  



entered their home without permission, and ripped pages out of one of their Bibles.  



                                                                                            

Rasmussen accepted the children's statements as true, and she repeatedly reminded the  



court  that  OCS  had  "substantiated  abuse"  of  the  children.    But  the  court  expressed  



concern over Rasmussen's testimony, noting that she might be "over-enmeshed" with  



               

Caroline and could not give an unbiased opinion.  The court ordered Theodore and the  



children  to  begin  reunification  counseling,  and  it  set  another  custody  hearing  for  



July 1, 2013, a few months later.  



                                                             -3-                                                       7044
  


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

                                                                                                         

                    The parties could not agree on a reunification counselor, so the court picked  



Tom R. Lytle and ordered reunification counseling to begin immediately, with sessions  



                                                                                                                

up  to  twice  a  week.              But  Caroline  failed  to  bring  the  children  for  most  of  the  



                                                                                                                         

appointments, missing those scheduled for July 11, 26, and 29 and August 2, 9, 16, and  



                                  

26.  Lytle stated that based on his observations of the children, Caroline was actively  



                                                                                                                   

interfering with counseling.  Based on this information, the court ordered Caroline to  



bring the children to all future sessions under threat of sanctions.  



                    The  majority  of  the  custody  trial  was  held  on  October  7  and  8,  2013.  



                                                                                                            

Theodore, Caroline, Rasmussen, Lytle, and Kathleen Anne Chambers, the OCS worker  



that had interviewed the children, all testified.  



                    Lytle testified that his impression of Theodore was that he "was willing to  



make the necessary changes" and "willing to take ownership" of the hurt he had caused  



                                                                             

the children in the past.  He testified that at the first session the children were anxious but  



excited to see their father.  Lytle testified that there were no "red flags" and that the  



mood was more relaxed at the end of the session.  He testified that at the next session  



           

things were going well until Thomas began asking Theodore why he had stolen their  



                                                                                      

bikes.  Lytle noted that Thomas did not ask if Theodore had stolen their bikes; Thomas  



                                          

appeared to have assumed it had happened.  At the next session Thomas brought in a  



                                                                                                                        

piece of cardboard with accusatory questions written on it.  Lytle testified that some of  



the  accusations  seemed  too  sophisticated  for  a  child,  like  Thomas's  assertion  that  



                                                            

Theodore could do community service at Alaska Family Services to pay for a visitation  



                                                                                                         

supervisor.  Lytle testified that given the incongruence between how one session ended  



                                                                                           

and the next began, he believed that something "[t]ranspired . . . in between those times."  



                                                                                            

                    Chambers, the OCS investigator, testified that Caroline had refused to let  



                                                                                          

her interview the children in a private place, so she had to interview them somewhere  



                                                                                                 

where Caroline could hear through the door.   She stated that the two older children  



                                                               -4-                                                         7044
  


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

presented as though they had been coached, raising their voices so that Caroline would  



hear  them  say  certain  things.    She  explained  that  her  supervisor  directed  her  to  



substantiate the allegations of harm, and she testified that she did not think Theodore  



                                                     

posed a risk of harm to the children.  Finally, she testified that Caroline had not explained  



                                                                           

to Thomas that the reason his father did not come to his football games was because of  



the protective order, not because he no longer loved him.  



                    Theodore testified that at the first session the children were happy to see  



him, but at subsequent sessions Thomas began asking him questions that he thought  



                 

"were just a little bit too mature for a 10-year-old to be asking."  He felt that Thomas was  



asking  him  adult  questions  about  the  divorce  that  he  could  only  have  learned  from  



                                                                                                            

Caroline.  He explained that Thomas brought up an email from Caroline's attorney about  



                                                                                                     

the utilities being shut off at the house and made accusations about Theodore's salary.  



                                               

And he testified that whenever he answered Thomas's questions, Thomas would come  



                                                                        

to  the  next  session  with  rebuttals.    Theodore  stated  that  he  believed  Caroline  was  



                                                                                                         

undermining him outside of counseling and felt that it was impossible for him to make  



any progress.  



                                                                                                              

                    Rasmussen testified that she never felt like the children were coached.  On  



                                                                                   

cross-examination she explained that she did not try to challenge or change any of the  



                                                                             

children's beliefs.  These included their beliefs that their father stole their bikes, entered  



their house at night to steal Katrina's clothing and destroy her Bible, and ignored them  



in public.  



                                                                                          

                    The remaining day of the trial was continued.  The superior court ordered  



             

that, in the interim, reunification counseling would resume and Caroline would not be  



allowed to come to the appointments or object to any of the scheduled times.  It also  



directed that Theodore would provide transportation to the sessions with another adult  



                                                                                                             

in the vehicle.  But on the first day of the renewed reunification sessions, Caroline kept  



                                                              -5-                                                        7044
  


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

                                                                                       

the  children  out  of  school  until  her  lawyer  told  her  she  needed  to  bring  them  to  



 counseling.  On the second scheduled day of counseling, the children were walking to  



 Theodore's  car  when  Thomas  received  a  call  from  Caroline  and  thereafter  all  three  



 children refused to go with Theodore.  The court found Caroline in contempt and ordered  



her to pay $200 for every missed counseling appointment.  



                                                                                                      

                              The superior court held its final day of testimony on the custody issues on  



                                                                                                 

 January 13, 2014. Caroline offered reasons for the missed counseling appointments.  She  



                                                                                                                                                         

 also testified that she believed Theodore took pages out of Katrina's Bible and stole the  



                                                                                          

 children's bicycles.  Caroline stated that she had not tried to undermine Theodore during  



                                                                                                                                                 

 counseling.  But she admitted that she had told the children it was their father's fault that  



                                                               

there was no hot water and that they had to move out of the home.  Additionally, she  



 admitted to telling Thomas that he did not need to go to reunification counseling.  



                                                                                       

                              The court concluded that Theodore had a history of domestic violence, but  



                                                                 

 it ruled that if he completed a domestic violence intervention program he would rebut the  



                                                                                                  2 

                                                                                                                            

presumption against being awarded custody.  The court stated that it was very concerned 



               2              See AS 25.24.150(g) ("There is a rebuttable presumption that a parent who   



has a history of perpetrating domestic violence against the other parent, a child, or a   

 domestic living partner may not be awarded sole legal custody, sole physical custody,   

joint  legal  custody,  or  joint   physical  custody  of  a  child.");  AS  25.24.150(h)  ("The  

presumption may be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence that the perpetrating     

parent  has  successfully  completed  an  intervention   program  for  batterers,  where  

reasonably available, that the parent does not engage in substance abuse, and that the best                                                                             

 interests of the child require that parent's participation as a custodial parent because the     

 other parent is absent, suffers from a diagnosed mental illness that affects parenting   

 abilities, or engages in substance abuse that affects parenting abilities, or because of  

 other circumstances that affect the best interests of the child.").  



                                                                                              -6-                                                                                     7044
  


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

with Caroline's "willful disregard of court orders," including her "willful refusal to bring  

                                                                                                           



the children to reunification counseling with Mr. Lytle."  The court noted that Caroline  

                                                                                            



had not contested the reunification order; she had just given excuses each time for why  

                                                                                                                      



the children could not go.  The court commented:  



                    [Caroline's] actions demonstrate that she is not interested in  

                    the children having a quality relationship with their father; in  

                                                                                  

                    addition to her frequent, willful refusal to take the children to  

                                                                                              

                    reunification counseling, I have her reaction today [when a  

                    witness gave testimony contradictory to Theodore].  



                    I   happen[ed]   to   be   watching   [Caroline];   I   have   never  

                                                                     

                    throughout these proceedings seen such an expression of joy  

                                                                 

                    on either party's face as I saw on [Caroline]'s face when [the  

                                                          

                    witness] made that comment.  She was thrilled, thrilled that  

                                                                                            

                    the children . . . , according to [the witness,] said something  

                                               

                    different  than  what  [Theodore]  said  they  said.  But  her  

                                                                                                

                    reaction spoke volumes to me.  And she immediately saw me  

                                                        

                    watching her and changed her reaction.  



The court found that Caroline's demeanor "corroborate[d] in a genuine, unrehearsed  



spontaneous way the exact concerns [Theodore] ha[d] been expressing . . . for the last  



six  months  or  more";  that  Caroline  had  "put  any  number  of  obstacles  between  



[Theodore] and his children to undermine his ability to reestablish a relationship"; and  

                                                                     



that Caroline had engaged in parental alienation.  



                    The court ordered that Caroline would continue to have legal and physical  

                                                      



custody of the children until June 1, at which point the parents would exercise shared  



physical  and  joint  legal  custody  so  long  as  Theodore  had  completed  the  domestic  

                                                                                                             



violence intervention program.  After Theodore filed proof of his completion of the  



program with the court on June 30, the court ordered the change in physical custody to  

                                                           



take place immediately.  It issued its final order on September 2 confirming its earlier  



decision.  Caroline appeals.  



                                                              -7-                                                        7044
  


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

III.      STANDARD OF REVIEW
  



                                                                                                                  3  

                                                                                                                     We will  

                    "The trial court has broad discretion in child custody decisions." 



                                          

reverse the superior court's decision only when "the record shows an abuse of discretion  



                                                                                  4  

or if controlling factual findings are clearly erroneous."   An abuse of discretion exists  



where   the   superior   court   "considered   improper   factors   in   making   its   custody  



determination,           failed      to    consider        statutorily       mandated          factors,      or    assigned  

disproportionate weight to particular factors while ignoring others."5  "A factual finding  



                                                                                               

is clearly erroneous when a review of the record leaves the court with a definite and firm  

conviction that the superior court has made a mistake."6  



                    "Whether the court's findings on domestic violence are supported by the  

record is a question of fact which we review for clear error."7  



          3         Veselsky v. Veselsky, 113 P.3d 629, 632 (Alaska 2005) (citing Jenkins v.  



Handel , 10 P.3d 586, 589 (Alaska 2000)).  



          4         J.F.E. v. J.A.S. , 930 P.2d 409, 411 (Alaska 1996) (citing                        Farrell v. Farrell ,  



819 P.2d 896, 898 (Alaska 1991)); see also Hamilton v. Hamilton ,  42 P.3d 1107, 1111  

(Alaska 2002).  



          5         Siekawitch  v.  Siekawitch,  956  P.2d  447,  449  (Alaska  1998)  (quoting  



Borchgrevink v. Borchgrevink , 941 P.2d 132, 134 (Alaska 1997)).  



          6  

                                                                         

                    Fardig  v.  Fardig ,  56  P.3d  9,  11  (Alaska  2002)  (quoting  Siekawitch,  

956 P.2d at 449) (internal quotation marks omitted).  



          7  

                                

                    Yelena R. v. George R., 326 P.3d 989, 998 (Alaska 2014); Stephanie F. v.  

                   

George C., 270 P.3d 737, 754 (Alaska 2012) (remanding for superior court to decide  

              

whether presumption was rebutted); Misyura v. Misyura , 242 P.3d 1037, 1041 (Alaska  

2010) (treating rebuttal of the presumption as a question of fact).  



                                                              -8-                                                        7044
  


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

IV.	      DISCUSSION  



          A.	        The Superior Court Did Not Clearly Err By Finding That Theodore  

                     Rebutted The Domestic Violence Presumption.  



                                                                                                      

                     Because the superior court found that Theodore had a history of domestic  



                                                             

violence under AS 25.24.150(g), there was a rebutable presumption that he could not be  



                                                                                        8  

                                                                                                     

awarded joint physical or legal custody of the children.                                    That presumption  may  be  



overcome by proof  



                     [1] that the perpetrating parent has successfully completed an  

                     intervention         program         for     batterers,       where        reasonably  

                     available, [2] that the parent does not engage in substance  

                     abuse, and [3] that the best interests of the child require that   

                     parent's participation as a custodial parent [a] because the              

                     other parent is absent, suffers from a diagnosed mental illness  

                     that affects parenting abilities, or engages in substance abuse  

                                                                    

                     that  affects  parenting  abilities,  or  [b]  because  of  other  

                                                                                                         [9] 

                     circumstances that affect the best interests of the child.  



                                                                                                      10  

The perpetrating parent must satisfy all three prongs of the statute.                                      



                                                                                                          

                    No party argues that Theodore abuses substances, and it is uncontested that  



                                                                                                                     

he completed the domestic violence intervention program. Thus, the issue is whether the  



          8	         See AS 25.24.150(g).  



          9          AS  25.24.150(h).    We  have  inserted  bracketed  numbers  and  letters  to  



illustrate our analysis.  



          10         Weinberger v. Weinberger, 268 P.3d 305, 309-10 (Alaska 2012); see also  



Kristina B. v. Edward B. , 329 P.3d 202, 208 (Alaska 2014) (noting that the offending  

               

parent "must show that it is in the child's best interests that the parent have custody" with  

                                                                                   

reference to the outlined options in the statute:  "the other parent is absent, suffers from  

                

a diagnosed mental illness that affects parenting abilities, or engages in substance abuse  

                                                                                                              

that affects parenting abilities, or because of other circumstances that affect the best  

interests of the child" (second quotation quoting AS 25.24.150(h)) (internal quotation  

marks omitted)).  



                                                                -9-	                                                         7044
  


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

superior court satisfactorily addressed whether "the best interests of the child[ren] require  

[Theodore's] participation as a custodial parent . . . because of other circumstances."11  



                     Caroline argues that she needed to be "unavailable to parent the children"             



for the presumption against joint custody to be overcome, but she misunderstands this  



                                                                                                                         

statutory provision. The structure of subsection .150(g) provides alternative grounds for  



                                                                                                                   

assessing whether the best interests of the children require the custodial participation of  



                                       12  

                                             Subsection  [3][b]  allows  the  presumption  to  be  rebutted  

the  perpetrating  parent.                                                                                              



regardless of the availability of the other parent, so long as it is in the best interest of the  

                                                                                                    

children that the perpetrating parent exercise some degree of custody.13  

                                                                                                                     



                     Here Caroline's conduct in interfering with the children's reunification  



counseling and their relationship with their father was central to the superior court's  



decision.  The court found that Caroline had "put any number of obstacles between  



[Theodore] and his children to undermine his ability to reestablish a relationship," and  



                                                                                                        

that she had engaged in parental alienation.  These are sufficient "other circumstances"  



under [3][b] to establish that it was in the best interest of the children to have their father  



in their lives.  Thus, the superior court did not clearly err when it found that Theodore  



rebutted the presumption against shared physical or legal custody.  



                                                                                                         

           B.	       The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion When It Considered  

                     Caroline's Conduct As It Related To The Children's Best Interests.  



                     Caroline argues that the superior court incorrectly considered her reluctance  



to engage in reunification therapy.  She relies upon AS 25.24.150(k), which states, "The  



fact that an abused parent suffers from the effects of the abuse does not constitute a basis  



           11        AS 25.24.150(h).  



           12        See AS 25.24.150(g).  



           13        Id.  



                                                                  -10-	                                                           7044
  


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

                    

for denying custody to the abused parent unless the court finds that the effects of the  



domestic violence are so severe that . . . the parent [is] unable to safely parent the child."  



                    Alaska Statute 25.24.150(k) exists to protect victims of domestic violence  



                                                                                        

who may suffer lasting psychological or physical effects from domestic violence.  We  

                                                                                                       14  There, the father  

have only interpreted this provision once, in Kristina B. v. Edward B .  



was  found  to  have  a  history  of  domestic  violence,  but  the  court  awarded  him  sole  



                           15  

physical custody.              The court concluded that the father had rebutted the presumption,  



in part because the mother's substance abuse prevented her from effectively parenting  



               16  

the  child.           The  mother  appealed,  arguing  that  under  AS  25.24.150(k)  it  was  



                                                                

inappropriate for the court to consider her history of substance abuse because it was due  



                                                                                 17  

                                                                                            

to, or had been exacerbated by, the domestic violence.                               We disagreed, holding that the  



                                 

mother had failed to demonstrate that the substance abuse was related to the domestic  

violence because she had been abusing substances long before the relationship began.18  



                                                                                       

                    Although we are mindful of the struggles faced by victims of domestic  



violence,  in  this  case  Caroline  failed  to  make  the  necessary  showing  that  domestic  



                                      

violence  caused  her  to  interfere  with  the  children's  reunification  counseling  and  to  



                                                                  

engage in parental alienation conduct.  She did not raise her AS 25.24.150(k) argument  



                                           

before the superior court or ask the court for any findings that her conduct was due to the  



                                                           

effects of domestic violence.  Instead, in the superior court Caroline blamed the missed  



          14        Kristina  B., 329 P.3d at 210.  



          15        Id. at 204.  



          16        Id. at 210.  



          17        Id.  



          18        Id.  



                                                              -11-                                                         7044
  


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

appointments on the children's and her schedules and the children's reluctance to go to       



counseling.  She did not argue that she was afraid of Theodore or that her fear caused her     



to act the way she did.                      In fact, the court specifically found that she indicated a desire to         



have  Theodore  in  the   children's  lives.    Thus,  the  superior  court  did  not  abuse  its  



discretion when it considered Caroline's parental alienation conduct.  



             C.	          The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion When Considering          

                          The Best Interests Of The Children.  



                          Caroline argues that the superior court abused its discretion because it failed  



to consider all of the statutory best interest factors when making its custody decision.   



Specifically, she argues that the superior court abused its discretion because it failed to                                         



consider the children's preferences, the love and affection existing between the children                                        



and the parents, and the length of time the children had lived in a stable environment.  



                                                                                  

                          Alaska Statute 25.24.150(c) sets out "nine potentially relevant  factors that  

                                                                                                                                          19  These factors  

the court must consider" when determining the best interests of the child. 



include:  



                          [1] the needs of the child; [2] each parent's ability and desire  

                                                                                                              

                          to meet those needs; [3] the child's preference, if he or she is  

                          old enough to have one; [4] the love and affection between  

                                                                                                           

                          the child and each parent; [5] the stability and continuity of  

                          the child's environment; [6] the willingness of each parent to  

                                                                                                               

                          facilitate the child's relationship with the other parent; [7] any  

                                                                 

                          domestic violence or child abuse; [8] any substance abuse  

                                                                                                              

                          that directly affects the child; and [9] other factors that the  

                                                                     [20] 

                          court deems pertinent.                            



             19           Park v. Park , 986 P.2d 205, 206 (Alaska 1999) (emphasis added).  



             20           Rosenblum  v.  Perales ,  303  P.3d  500,  504  n.11  (Alaska  2013)  (citing  



AS 25.24.150(c)).  



                                                                                -12-	                                                                         7044
  


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

                                                  

We  have  held  that  the  superior  court  need  not  mention  each  factor  by  name;  it  is  



                                                               

sufficient if the court's findings provide "a clear indication of the factors [that the court]  



considered important in exercising its discretion or allows us to glean from the record  



                                                      21  

what considerations were involved."                       And the statute is a list of potential factors; the  



court  "must  only  address  those  that  are  'actually  relevant  in  light  of  the  evidence  

presented.' "22  



                    Caroline's arguments are unpersuasive.  The superior court did not abuse  



its discretion in not discussing the children's preferences.  At the time of trial the children  



                        

were 10, 9, and 7 years of age.  Given their ages, they were not of sufficient maturity to  

have a meaningful preference.23  



                    The  court  did  not  make  any  findings  regarding  the  love  and  affection  



                                                                                                             

between the children and the parents.  We take this to mean that either the court did not  



                                                                     

find this factor particularly relevant or that the factor was equally balanced between the  



            24  

parents. 



                                                                                 

                    The court also did not make a finding on the stability factor.  During trial  



the testimony centered on two issues:  Theodore's history of domestic violence and  



          21       Id. at 504 (alteration in original) (quoting                  Ebertz v. Ebertz , 113 P.3d 643,  



648 (Alaska 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted).  



          22        Thomas v. Thomas, 171 P.3d 98, 102 (Alaska 2007) (quoting  Virgin v.  



Virgin, 990 P.2d 1040, 1045 (Alaska 1999)).  



          23        Compare Sheffield v. Sheffield, 265 P.3d 332, 335 (Alaska 2011) (giving  



weight to the preference of a 14 year old where no evidence suggested that either parent  

                                                                      

pressured the child),  with  William P. v. Taunya P., 258 P.3d 812, 816 (Alaska 2011)  

                                                                                                   

(agreeing that children aged 10 and 11 were too young to form preferences).  



          24        The court "must only address those [factors] that are actually relevant in  



light of the evidence presented."  Thomas, 171 P.3d at 102 (quoting  Virgin, 990 P.2d  

at 1045) (internal quotation marks omitted).  



                                                            -13-                                                       7044
  


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

Caroline's  willful  attempts  to  damage  the  relationship  between  Theodore  and  the  



                                                                                                                

children.  A trial court "must only address those [factors] that are actually relevant in  

                                              25  The court did find that Caroline alienated the children,  

light of the evidence presented."                                                  



and this finding is not clearly erroneous.  The record is replete with evidence supporting  

             



this finding, including Lytle's testimony that Caroline was interfering with counseling,  

                                                                   



Thomas's overly sophisticated questions, and Caroline's own admissions. It is also clear  

                                                                                                                



that alienation was the most significant factor in the court's decision, and it was not an  

                                                                                                                



abuse of discretion for the court to place great weight upon this finding.  



                    The superior court did not abuse its discretion by not making findings on  



                                                                                       

the children's preferences, the love and affection between the children and the parents,  



and the length of time the children had lived in a stable environment.  



V.        CONCLUSION  



                    We AFFIRM the decision of the superior court in all respects.  



          25  

                                                                                          

                   Id. (quoting  Virgin, 990 P.2d at 1045) (internal quotation marks omitted).  



                                                             -14-                                                          7044  

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