When a spouse is preparing to file for divorce in Alaska, the first step in the process will require them to determine whether they are filing for a divorce or a dissolution of marriage. A spouse should file for divorce in Alaska if they cannot reach an agreement with their spouse on either getting a divorce or on any issues related to their divorce settlement.

On the other hand, a spouse should file for a dissolution of marriage in Alaska if both spouses can agree on obtaining a divorce and all matters associated with their divorce. This distinction is important since there are separate forms to fill out depending on whether a married couple is filing for divorce or a dissolution of their marriage. Couples filing for dissolution of marriage can also file the forms for an uncontested matter, which can make the process go faster.

Next, the couple will need to file the appropriate legal documents for child custody and child support. If the divorcing couple does not have any children, then they can fill out the forms specified for couples without minor children.

It is important to note that a party who is filing for divorce in the state of Alaska will need to meet the residency requirements as well. The residency requirements to obtain a divorce in Alaska are as follows:

  • One or both spouses are residents of Alaska and intend to remain living in the state;
  • The couple lived as a married couple in Alaska for at least 6 consecutive months within the 6 years prior to filing for a divorce; and/or
  • The issues in the divorce matter can be decided under the authority of an Alaska state court (e.g., child custody issues can only be ruled on in Alaska if the child has resided in the state for at least 6 months prior to the divorce).

Assuming all of the above factors have been satisfied, a couple seeking to get a divorce will normally need to wait approximately 30 days after filing for a divorce or a dissolution of marriage before it is finalized by a court. Such cases are officially finalized when a judge issues a divorce decree to the parties.

What is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation in Alaska?

In Alaska, a married couple is not required to remain legally separated for a certain period of time before they can get a divorce. Instead, a married couple in Alaska may file for a Decree of Legal Separation in order to stay married for the purposes of protecting their finances, religious beliefs, and/or social or legal interests. Accordingly, a legal separation allows them to keep their marital status and interests in the eyes of the law while living apart.

This also happens to be the main difference between a divorce and separation in Alaska, which is that a divorce terminates a couple’s marriage. Similar to a divorce, however, a couple who files for legal separation in Alaska must have the following issues approved by a court:

  • A child support order on which parent will be required to make monthly child support payments;
  • How the parents intend to split child custody; and
  • The division and distribution of property, assets, and/or debts that were earned or received during the marriage up until the point of separation or the date mandated by the court.

It should be noted that a married couple in Alaska can also be involved in an informal separation. An informal separation does not require a married couple in Alaska to file a Decree of Legal Separation or approval from a court. However, if a separated couple eventually files for divorce, it is important for the couple to keep track of when and for how long the couple decided to informally separate before filing for divorce.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

As previously mentioned, the types of paperwork that a spouse filing for divorce in Alaska will be required to complete and submit to a court will largely depend on the answer to many of the questions asked above within the first section. For example, consider the various forms that must be submitted when filing for a dissolution of marriage in Alaska based on the following scenarios:

  • A married couple with minor children will need to file the forms contained in the dissolution packet for DR-1;
  • A married couple without minor children will need to file the forms contained in the dissolution packet for DR-2;
  • A party who cannot locate their spouse and does not want to handle the issues concerning debt, child custody, property division will need to file the forms contained in the dissolution packet for DR-3.

On the other hand, married couples who are filing for an uncontested divorce in Alaska will need to submit the following forms to their local state court based on the circumstances surrounding their case:

  • A married couple who is filing for an uncontested divorce and has children must submit the form for an Uncontested Complaint for Divorce with Children (i.e., SHC-PAC9A);
  • A married couple who is filing for an uncontested divorce, but does not have any children will need to submit the form for an Uncontested Complaint for Divorce without Children (i.e., SHC-PAC9B); or
  • A party who is filing for an uncontested divorce and wants custody of their children must submit the form for an Uncontested Complaint for Custody of Minor Children (i.e., SHC-PAC910).

As for spouses that do not agree on any or only some issues and need to file for a contested divorce in Alaska, they should review the instructions for the following forms:

  • If a married couple is filing for a contested divorce and they have minor children, then they will need to file the Divorce Complaint Packet for SHC-PAC1A; or
  • If a married couple is filing for a contested divorce and they do not have minor children, then they will need to file the Divorce Complaint Packet for SHC-PAC1B.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

There are two primary ways that state courts divide property when a married couple files for divorce: either by applying the community property standard or the equitable distribution standard. The state of Alaska follows the guidelines for the equitable distribution standard when dividing property among separating or divorcing spouses. This means that any marital property acquired in a marriage must be split in a way that is considered to be fair and equal.

On the other hand, property that is considered to be separate and not marital property will remain in the possession of the spouse to whom it belongs. Briefly, separate property is any property that was acquired before a marriage or was given to one of the spouse’s during a marriage as either a gift or an inheritance. Hence, why it is important for divorcing parties to make a list of all their property and assets.

What Should You Do if There are Children Involved?

A judge may issue a child custody and support order at the same time that they issue the parties’ final divorce decree. The child custody and support order will outline the legal duties and rights of each of the parents after the divorce process has ended. Both parents will usually be responsible for the care and well-being of their children unless one of the parents can prove otherwise.

At the very least, a court will order the noncustodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. Therefore, it may be in the parties’ best interests to retain separate counsel on matters regarding child custody, visitation rights, and/or child support. This is especially true in cases in which the parties fail to cooperate with one another on such issues.

Do You Need to Pay Spousal Support?

A judge may order one of the spouses to pay temporary or permanent spousal support to a spouse who does not have the means to financially support themselves. A court in Alaska will consider the following factors when determining whether to award alimony to a spouse:

  • How long the married couple was married;
  • The age and the health of each of the parties;
  • The earning capacity and income of each of the parties;
  • The educational background and professional or trade skills of each of the parties;
  • Whether both or only one party worked during the couple’s marriage;
  • Which of the spouses took care of the children;
  • How the property and debts of the parties are being divided and distributed;
  • The amount of work experience of each of the parties; and/or
  • Whether one or both of the parties intentionally or unreasonably spent money that was considered to be shared marital property (e.g., joint checking and savings account).

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

While you do not necessarily need to retain a divorce attorney in order to file for divorce, it is generally recommended that you speak to one for legal advice regarding any laws and/or procedural requirements in Alaska that are confusing or unclear to you. You may also want to consider hiring an Alaska divorce lawyer in your area if you require legal representation and need to appear in an Alaska state court.

In addition, you may want to hire a qualified Alaska divorce lawyer if you need help with a property division issue. If you do not know where to look for an Alaska divorce lawyer, you should start your search for the right one by registering for a free account to use LegalMatch’s services. LegalMatch has special matching software that can meet the specific criteria that you need in an attorney. To learn more about how to sign up to use LegalMatch click here.