Although divorce can take an emotional and financial toll on the people involved, knowing the law in your state can help you decide whether you need an attorney or you can handle your case on your own.
In Alaska, the residency requirement simply says that you have to be currently living in Alaska when you file. Even if you haven't been living there long, if you intend to stay, that is sufficient to file for divorce there.
Alaska is a mixed state, which means it allows both no-fault and fault divorce. To file a no-fault divorce in Alaska, the couple simply states that they have an "incompatibility of temperament." Most people prefer this, as it allows them to file for divorce without blaming either side. If you wish to file a fault-based complaint, however, Alaska permits the following grounds:
- Failure to consummate the marriage
- Felony conviction
- Desertion for at least one year
- Cruelty or inhumane treatment of one spouse to another
- Personal indignities that make life difficult
- Habitual drunkenness for at least one year
- Incurable mental illness where the ill spouse has been institutionalized for at least 18 months
- Drug addiction
Beginning Your Case
To file your divorce case, you must prepare several forms and submit them to the appropriate court. The Court System of Alaska has a useful self-help website with that offers instructions, and answers frequently asked questions. Alaska state also provides a site that offers a variety of forms, however, it's important to note that your local Alaskan court may or may not accept those forms. If your divorce is complicated, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney. To start the process:
- One spouse fills out the appropriate packet depending on whether or not there are children and property to divide.
- The non-filing spouse has 20 days to respond. If he or she does not respond within 20 days, the filing spouse can seek to have a default judgment and a divorce decree issued.
- If the filing spouse does respond, the couple will then work on figuring out how to divide property, child custody and any other issues. If the couple can come to an agreement on all the issues, then the case will be settled and the divorce decree issued. However, if the couple does not agree on all the issues, the case will go to trial and a judge will
Dividing the Property
Although Alaska is an equitable distribution state, it also permits married couples to choose community property rules by agreement. This means that spouses can designate specific items as either community property or equitable property. To do so, Alaska law requires that both parties agree in writing either before or during the marriage. Alaska courts use a three-step process to divide property. With each asset, the court performs the following analysis:
- Identify the marital asset or liability
- Place a value on the marital asset or liability
- Distribute the marital asset or liability
To determine what constitutes a fair division of assets, Alaska courts look to a list of Merrill factors:
- The duration of the marriage and the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage
- Each spouse's age and health status
- Each person's earning ability, including their education, work experience, and whether they cared for children during the marriage
- Each side's financial status, including the availability of health care
- Whether either side wasted marital property
- Whether it's reasonable to give one person the right to live in the marital home with the kids
- The life circumstances of each person
- The manner in which marital assets were acquired and when they were acquired
- Whether marital assets have the ability to produce future income and their value at the time of division
In Alaska, the court may award spousal support or alimony to either spouse regardless of gender. In Alaska, there are only two kinds of spousal support - both of which are temporary. Rehabilitation support is designed to provide schooling or training for a job. Reorientation support is support designed to tide one spouse over for a short time. For example, reorientation support may be ordered while one spouse waits to sell the house.
A spouse who seeks alimony must specifically request it in the divorce papers. If you do not request spousal support in your complaint or response, the court may determine that you have forfeited your right to it. In determining the need, duration, and amount of support, the court considers:
Length of the marriage
Each party's age and health
Each spouse's earning potential, education level, work skills and experience
Whether either spouse worked during the marriage or took care of the kids
Whether either spouse unreasonably used up marital money
How the property and debt is divided
Providing for the Children
Divorce can be overwhelming for anyone. Children are especially sensitive to the issues surrounding divorce. As such, the courts are especially concerned for the best interests of the children involved in divorce cases.
In any Alaska divorce case involving minor children, the court sets the terms of a parenting plan, which is a binding agreement that settles issues like who has physical custody, legal custody, who pays for health insurance, and any other issues related to the children. As a parent, you will have to complete some type of parenting education class. Most courts require that you watch a video at the courthouse, but local courts may have additional or separate requirements.
If you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of custody, the courts may use the following factors to determine the most appropriate custody and visitation plan:
- The child's physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs
- Each parent's ability and willingness to meet the child needs
- The child's preference
- The love and affection shown between parent and child
- Whether the child has lived in a stable environment for a long period of time
- Whether the custodial parent intends to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
- Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect in the proposed custodial household or a history of violence between the parents;
- evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other members of the household directly affects the emotional or physical well-being of the child
- other factors the court considers pertinent.
Both parents have an ongoing obligation to provide financial support for their minor children until they reach the age of 18--or 19, if they are still in high school. Child support is based on the Alaska Child Support Calculator and a number of factors.
Planning Your Divorce
Navigating Alaska's divorce laws can be an overwhelming prospect. If you educate yourself and plan properly, however, you can move forward with confidence.