Getting divorced in Alaska is similar to getting divorced in most other states. A divorce for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
In order to file for divorce in Alaska, you must be a resident of the state. It does not matter how long you have been a resident.
In addition to the standard divorce procedure, there is also a simplified procedure that is called a dissolution of marriage. You and your spouse may use the dissolution procedure if you both:
- agree that the no-fault grounds for dissolution exist,
- agree on the custody, visitation, and support of any minor children,
- agree on the division of your property, and
- agree on how your debts will be paid.
You begin the procedure by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You, and possibly your spouse, will be required to attend a court hearing. The judge will ask some questions, to be sure you understand and agree to everything, and will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If you can’t locate your spouse, you may use this procedure alone.
For the traditional divorce procedure, you would begin by filing a Petition for Divorce. As a practical matter, you would only use the divorce procedure if your spouse can be located and does not agree to the settlement of all issues. There would most likely be more documents filed than with the dissolution procedure, and the court hearing would likely be more complicated. A traditional divorce will result in the court issuing a Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution or divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Alaska, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce, and more traditional fault-based grounds. To get a no-fault divorce in Alaska you need to state in the Petition that an “incompatibility of temperament has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”
There are fault-based grounds for divorce, such as adultery, conviction of a felony, desertion, physical and mental abuse, and drug or alcohol addiction. However, in most cases, there is no reason to use any of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.
Property Division in Alaska
A dissolution or divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Alaska law adopts the principal of community property, so all property acquired during your marriage is considered marital property. Generally, each party will be able to keep any property he or she owned before the marriage, however, the judge may even divide this if required to “balance the equities.” If the judge must decide how to divide the property, he or she must consider the following factors:
- the length of marriage and the parties’ station in life during the marriage;
- the age and health of the parties;
- each party’s earning capacity, including educational backgrounds, training, employment skills, work experiences, length of absence from job market, and custodial responsibilities for children during the marriage;
- each party’s financial condition, including the availability and cost of health insurance;
- the conduct of the parties, including any unreasonable depletion of marital assets;
- the desirability of child custodian remaining in the family home;
- the circumstances and necessities of each party;
- the time and manner of acquisition of the property; and
- the income-producing capacity and the value of the property.
Alimony in Alaska
In Alaska alimony is called maintenance. In determining whether to award maintenance, and the amount and duration, the judge must consider factors (1) through (5) listed above for property division, plus the division of property and any other factors the court determines to be relevant. Maintenance in Alaska may be awarded for a limited or an indefinite period of time, and in a lump sum or in installments.
Child Custody in Alaska
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Traditionally, one parent was awarded custody, and the other was given visitation rights. The children lived most of the time with the custodial parent, who made the day-to-day decisions regarding the children. The non-custodial parent was allotted certain times to have visitation with the children. Both parents were involved in major decisions regarding the children, such as those regarding their medical care. The modern trend is to try to keep both parents active in the lives of their children, which has led to the concept of joint custody. It all still comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made.
According to Alaska child custody laws, if the parties cannot reach an agreement on custody, the judge will make a decision based upon the best interest of the child, considering the following factors:
- the physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child;
- each party’s capability and desire to meet those needs;
- the child’s preference if of sufficient age and capacity;
- the love and affection between the child and each parent;
- the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- each party’s willingness and ability to facilitate a relationship between the other parent and the child;
- any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect in the proposed custodial household or a history of violence between the parents;
- any evidence of substance abuse by either parent or other household member that affects the child’s emotional or physical well-being; and
- any other factors that the court considers pertinent.
Child Support in Alaska
A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. This is determined by reference to the Alaska child support guidelines found in Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure. The Alaska Department of Revenue Child Support Services Division offers more information.
Either party may request a name change at the time of dissolution or divorce. However, if you wish to change to a name you have never used before, you will need to go through the same formalities as anyone seeking such a name change.
If you are considering an online divorce, LegalZoom can help you get the divorce documents you need. We help you fill out the paperwork and check it for completeness and accuracy, and provide step-by-step instructions for filing and completing your divorce