A Summary of Alaska Divorce Laws
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There’s more to Alaska divorce laws than some would like. It makes sense when you think about Alaska being The Last Frontier joined the union in 1959 as the 49th state and is the largest state at double the size of Texas (second largest in the union). Alaska has more inland water than any other state and more coastline than the rest of United States combined. It’s the only state to have coastlines on three different seas (Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Bering Sea). Alaskan men make up 52% of the state population, which is a higher percentage than any other state. But don’t worry guys; there are still plenty of women in the state with a population of over 736,000 people.
Unlike some of the other states, Alaska allows for several different options when it comes to ending a marriage. To start with, there are two different types of divorce, each with different grounds: (1) the “no-fault” divorce, also called dissolution of marriage, and (2) a decree of divorce based upon the fault of one of the spouses.
Grounds for Divorce Under Alaska Divorce Laws
Alaska divorce laws grant a final decree for any of the following grounds:
- Failure to consummate the marriage
- Conviction of a felony
- Willful desertion for a period of one year
- Cruel and inhuman treatment
- Personal indignities rendering life burdensome
- Incompatibility of temperament
- Habitual drunkenness or addiction to drugs
- Incurable mental illness
Alaska divorce laws permit “no-fault” divorce, or dissolution of marriage, to be awarded on the grounds of incompatibility of the spouses, which has caused irreversible damage to the marriage. The petition for dissolution of marriage must include detailed provisions regarding child custody and support, visitation, alimony, and division of property. There are two viable options when filing for dissolution of marriage.
You may file jointly if the following criteria are met:
- Incompatibility of temperament (or personality) has caused irreparable damage to the marriage.
- If there are unmarried children of the marriage under the age of nineteen (19) or the wife is pregnant, all issues regarding child custody, support, and visitation have been settled.
- The spouses have agreed to the distribution of all real and personal marital property and,
- The parties have reached an agreement regarding the payment of all unpaid obligations incurred by either or both of them, and as to the payment of obligations incurred jointly in the future.
You may also file for divorce separately if the following criteria are met:
- Incompatibility of temperament (or personality) has caused the irreparable damage to the marriage.
- The petitioning spouse is unable to determine the other spouse’s position regarding dissolution of the marriage, division of property, alimony, payment of debts, custody, child support, etc.
- The other spouse cannot be served with process inside or outside the state.
- A spouse personally served may execute an Appearance and Waiver, thereby eliminating the need for that spouse to attend the hearing.
Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties
An action for divorce in Alaska is filed in the Superior Court. If the divorce is based upon grounds of fault, the spouse who files the action is the Plaintiff and the other spouse is the Defendant. Alaska’s divorce laws stipulate the title of the action initiating the proceeding is a Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the action granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment of Divorce.
If the proceeding is based upon the no-fault grounds, the spouse who files the action is the Petitioner, and the other spouse is the Respondent. The action initiating these proceedings is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and the action granting the dissolution is called the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Under most circumstances, a party to a divorce action may file a motion requesting mediation for the purpose of achieving a mutually agreeable settlement. The court on its own motion may order the parties to participate in mediation if it determines that mediation may result in a more satisfactory settlement between the parties.
Alaska allows for alimony to be awarded to either party, with no regard to fault. Alimony may be awarded in one lump sum or installment payments. When determining alimony, the court will consider several factors, including:
- Length of the marriage;
- Station in life of the parties during the marriage;
- Age and health of the parties;
- Earning capacity/potential of both parties;
- Financial condition of both parties;
- Conduct of each spouse, including whether there has been an unreasonable depletion of marital assets;
- Division of property; and
- Any other relevant factors.
Distribution of Property
Divorce is never an easy process; it requires a lot of compromise and you often have to give up on things that you would rather not give up. Unfortunately, divorce is full of loss, pain, and frustration. For couples who have been together a long time, there is usually more at stake.
At the start of a relationship, you have “your stuff” and “her stuff,” and as the relationship progresses, you start to acquire “our stuff.” Since Alaska is an equitable distribution state, any property that belongs to you or your spouse alone will be set aside. The court will then make the decision on how to divide any shared property between the parties as it deems equitable and just, without regard to fault.
The court will consider the following factors when dividing the marital property under Alaskan divorce laws:
- Length of the marriage;
- Age and health of the parties;
- Earning capacity of the parties;
- Financial condition of the parties;
- Conduct of the parties, including whether there has been an unreasonable depletion of marital assets;
- Desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to live in it for a reasonable period of time to the party with custody of the child, if any;
- Circumstances and necessities of each party;
- Time and manner of acquisition of the property in question; and
- Income producing capacity of the property and the value of the property at the time of division.
If you and your wife are unable to come to a reasonable agreement regarding child custody and visitation, the court shall determine custody based upon the best interests of the child.
In making this determination, the court will consider the following factors:
- The physical, emotional, mental, religious and social needs of the child;
- The capability and desire of each parent to meet these needs;
- The child’s preferences, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference;
- The love and affection existing 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;
- The desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving frequent relationship between the child and the other parent;
- Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse or child neglect;
- Evidence of substance abuse; and
- Any other factors the court deems relevant.
In addition to child custody and visitation, child support is another issue that you may be able to discuss with your spouse and come to an agreement that is satisfactory for both of you. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order either or both parties to pay child support. Like with alimony, child support is paid in either lump sum or periodic payments.
Alaska divorce laws include Child Support Guidelines, which set the presumptive correct amount of child support. Deviation from these guidelines requires a showing that application of the guidelines would be unjust.
Either party may request their name be changed as part of the judgment of divorce.
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