Getting a Divorce in Alaska

Despite statistics, nobody says their marital vows expecting to get a divorce later. While the mention of divorce may send emotional shivers down your spine, ending your marriage doesn’t have to be the end of the world. 

However, you may find it easier to divorce your spouse in Alaska if you understand what it entails. While no two divorces are the same, Alaska has a standard procedure for getting a divorce. This Alaska divorce guide will provide the necessary information to dissolve your marital union.

Divorce in Alaska Summary

Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Alaska.

Divorce Petition Requirements

Divorce Filing Eligibility

Either spouse must currently reside in Alaska if you are seeking for divorce there. So long as one of you resides in the state, either you or your spouse may petition for divorce. Fortunately, if you reside in Alaska at the time of filing and intend to do so permanently, you are regarded as a resident. As a result, you don’t need to wait a long time to establish your residency in Alaska before starting the divorce process.

How to File A Divorce in Alaska

Step 1. Prepare Your Divorce Forms

The petition or complaint must be prepared and filed with the other necessary paperwork as the filing spouse. Depending on how you and your spouse choose to divide your assets, several divorce documents may be necessary. 

For spouses wishing to part ways, Alaska law offers two main options – divorce and a dissolution of marriage.

Step 2. File the Divorce Complaint

The divorce paperwork needs to be filed with your local court as the following step. Make two copies of the completed paperwork, then submit them along with the divorce petition to the appropriate court.

If you are eligible, you must additionally submit an exemption from payment form or pay the filing cost. The divorce summons and standing order will be returned by the court clerk in two copies, one of which will be given to your spouse.

Step 3. Serving the Other Spouse

Every document submitted in support of the divorce action must include a copy for your spouse. Making your spouse aware of the divorce action and giving them the opportunity to respond to the divorce complaint is known as serving the divorce paperwork, also known as serving process. 

Your divorce complaint, the summons, and any other court-filed paperwork must be included in the documents. In the event that you and your partner jointly submit the complaint, service of process is not required. Instead, your spouse will submit a waiver document declaring that they understand your decision to file for divorce and support it.

Step 4. Wait for Your Spouse’s Response

If you are the spouse who files the complaint, your spouse may reply by filing an answer. Within 20 days of the process being served, the answer must be filed.

Step 5. The Dissolution Hearing / Divorce Trial

The court may set a brief hearing to go over the dissolution agreement and issue a final decree if you and your spouse filed for divorce. The dissolution agreement will outline the parties’ preferences for how possessions and debt will be divided, who will have custody of any minor children, and other relevant post-divorce problems.

If the parties to an Alaskan divorce are at odds over a few points, a trial may be necessary.

Step 6. Final Divorce Decree

When the judge issues the divorce decree and makes the final determination, the divorce case is over. Decisions made during the proceedings will be upheld by the court to the extent of the state’s jurisdiction.

This completes the divorce process in Alaska.

Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Alaska

If you are filing for divorce in Alaska, either spouse must be a current resident of Alaska. You or your spouse may file for a divorce as long as one of you resides in the state. Luckily, you are recognized as a resident if you live in Alaska during the filing and plan to remain a resident indefinitely. This means you don’t have to wait several months to qualify as a resident of Alaska before filing for your divorce.

While the residency requirement is the only prerequisite, it does not necessarily give the Alaska court absolute jurisdiction over all the issues involved in your divorce case. For instance, the court may lack the authority to make orders on properties in another state. Likewise, for the court to have jurisdiction over child custody, visitation rights, and related issues, the children must have been Alaskan residents for at least six months. 

A child younger than six months must reside in the state before the court can give judgments on related divorce matters. Other exceptions may apply if the child has not resided in a single place for six months. It is best to speak to a divorce attorney about how jurisdiction applies in your case.

The residency requirement for military personnel is different. For the benefit of getting divorced, a military member stationed in Alaska for no less than 30 days is considered a resident. Usually, a member of the military or spouse has the following location options to file for divorce:

  • Where the spouse primarily lives
  • Where the military member is currently serving
  • The state where the military personnel primarily reside

The Alaska Divorce Process

After confirming that either of you meets the residency requirement, you or your spouse can proceed to file for divorce in Alaska. You can file a joint petition if the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree to go their separate ways and have agreed on the terms of their divorce. Otherwise, the filing spouse must comply with the legal process and ensure the use of the correct forms. The whole process may be a hassle, but you can consider online divorce services that can take care of this on your behalf. 

If you’ve decided to do it yourself, follow these essential steps:

Step 1: Prepare Your Divorce Forms

As the filing spouse, you need to prepare the petition or complaint and file it alongside other required forms. The forms applicable to your divorce depend on the terms on which you and your spouse plan to split. Alaska law provides two major options for spouses looking to go their separate ways. 

These options are divorce and a dissolution of marriage. The major difference is that in a dissolution of marriage, the parties agree on the divorce terms, ranging from child custody and visitation to the division of marital property. The divorce option is available to partners that cannot agree on every issue. While the process of a divorce or a dissolution differs slightly, a divorce decree will be entered either way. 

Sometimes, a couple may agree on dissolution, but contested issues may arise later. In this case, they can file a motion & affidavit to convert the dissolution action to a divorce. Specific forms also apply for a divorce with minor children or a pregnant spouse. Family law court forms are available on the Alaska Court System website. You can get either the divorce packet or the dissolution packet, whichever applies to your situation.

Step 2: File the Divorce Complaint

The next step is to file the divorce forms with your local court. After filling out the necessary forms, make two copies and file the divorce papers at your local court. If you qualify, you will also need to pay the filing fee or submit an exemption from the payment form. The court clerk will return two copies of the divorce summons and standing order, and one set of these documents will be delivered to your spouse. 

The divorce summons is a court document notifying your spouse of your decision to file for divorce and asking them to respond to your complaint. The Alaska court system also allows filing summons and divorce complaints through First-Class US mail. Your mail should include the completed forms, required fees, and a stamped envelope bearing a return address.

Step 3: Serving the Other Spouse

Your spouse must receive a copy of every document filed for the divorce action. Serving the divorce paperwork, also known as the service of process, notifies your spouse of the divorce action and gives them the chance to reply to the divorce complaint. The documents must include your divorce complaint, summons, and other forms filed at the court. The service of process is not necessary if you and your partner jointly file the complaint. Instead, your spouse will file a waiver form stating that they are aware of and support your decision to file for divorce.

If an attorney represents your spouse, you must serve the divorce papers to the attorney. However, if the spouse is self-representing, you must serve them the divorce papers personally. If your spouse cannot do this, you will serve the spouse alongside a legal guardian or a competent adult relative. If an institution is housing the incompetent spouse at the time of the filing, you will also have to serve the institution’s director.

The divorce complaint and summons can only be served through certified mail or a process 

server. The Alaska Court System website maintains a list of approved process servers to carry out the task. 

Note that the law prohibits service of the summons and the divorce complaint via hand delivery or First-Class Mail. However, you or your spouse can serve other documents through such methods. Failure to serve your spouse within 120 days of the filing will result in the court closing the case.

Step 4: Wait for Your Spouse’s Response

If you are the filing spouse, your partner can respond to your complaint by filing an answer. The filing of the answer must occur within 20 days of the service of the process. The response, which will contain your partner’s stance on the divorce issues, occurs more in a contested divorce. If your spouse decides not to respond, you can request a default divorce from the court. 

Step 5: The Dissolution Hearing/Divorce Trial

If you and your spouse filed for dissolution, the judge may schedule a short hearing to review the dissolution agreement and enter a final decree. The dissolution agreement will contain the wishes of both sides concerning the division of property or debt, child custody (for minor children), and related post-divorce matters. 

Parties to a contested Alaska divorce may go to trial if they disagree on some issues. At trial, the court rules over the dispute and passes orders. Both sides also present their case before the court’s final decision.

While the court requires both parties to be present in the final hearing or trial, the judge may grant a request to appear telephonically. You can file a motion to appear by phone if you cannot make the appearance in person. The motion will be granted at the judge’s discretion if there is a good reason, such as residing far away from the local court.

Step 6: Final Divorce Decree

The divorce case ends when the judge makes the final decision and signs the divorce decree. The court will enforce decisions made during the proceedings to the extent of the state’s jurisdiction. Once the final divorce decree is entered, the court issues you a divorce certificate showing the finality of the process.

If you need help with your divorce . . . 

I have compiled a list of quality online divorce services in Alaska that can provide you with much-needed assistance. You can find out more about getting quality online divorce services here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce decree in Alaska?

The timeline for an Alaska divorce is unique to the circumstances of the divorce. The duration of a divorce filing depends mainly on the circumstances of your divorce. However, the case will have some mandatory timelines set by law. For instance, the defendant must file an answer within 20 days of receiving the court forms. 

Anyone filing a motion during the case must do so within ten days. The opposing side can file a reply to the motion within five days of the initial filing. The earliest you can get a final decree in an Alaska divorce is 30 days, which is possible if the defendant fails to file an answer and the plaintiff requests that the court enter a default.

Parties to an uncontested divorce in Alaska are more likely to settle than proceed to trial. The duration of the process may depend on how long it takes to make the separation agreement. A mediator or divorce attorney can help the spouses settle their differences. Divorces that eventually go to trial may take several months to conclude.

What are the different types of divorce in Alaska?

In Alaska, you can either get a dissolution or a divorce to terminate your marriage. Divorces can either be contested or uncontested.

A dissolution is a suitable option to end your marriage in Alaska if you and your spouse agree on divorce terms. Before filing for a dissolution of marriage, spouses must agree on vital post-divorce issues like custody, child support, alimony, and the division of assets and liabilities. In this case, both spouses will file the dissolution petition, attend the final hearing, and get the final decree. However, you may file to change the dissolution to divorce if disagreements arise during the case.

Alaska allows interested persons to file for an uncontested divorce rather than a dissolution. While this is common if the case involves children, a spouse can also decide to file for this after consulting an attorney. The court can expedite the uncontested divorce process if the parties’ marriage is less than two years, no minor children involved, and a mutual settlement exists. 

A contested divorce happens when the interests of each spouse do not align. Since a settlement does not exist, the court has the authority to make decisions on the case. The court will schedule a trial to listen to both sides, and a decision will ensue to finalize the divorce. However, both parties may decide to settle to avoid the trial process. 

Under specific circumstances, people can also get a marriage annulment in Alaska. The law considers a marriage voided in the following circumstances:

  • Either party has another spouse
  • The spouses are related as third cousins or closer
  • Either party is a minor, and the parent did not consent
  • If the other spouse forcefully obtained consent
  • Both parties lack the legal authority to give consent
  • No sexual relations occurred

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Alaska?

No, if you and your partner have agreed to file for divorce, you can both proceed to file the paperwork without hiring an attorney or stepping foot in a law firm. The divorce may also be filed by only one spouse if the partner’s whereabouts are unknown or on fault-based grounds, like domestic violence.

Alaska divorce laws make room for self-representation in divorce proceedings and have a dedicated family law self-help center page for spouses who wish to handle their divorces personally. Alternatively, you may hire an online divorce service to handle your divorce process. This is a viable option if visiting law firms and reading boring court forms seems a chore.

If a disagreement occurs, the law still does not mandate you to retain an attorney. You can decide to file independently and represent yourself in court. However, you may consult an attorney to know the strengths and weaknesses of your case before filing for divorce.

Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce In Alaska?

Separation is not required to get a divorce in Alaska. Separation happens when a married couple no longer wants the relationship and decides to reside apart. They can also divide marital property, finances, and parental duties on agreed terms. Alternatively, the court can issue a decree of legal separation to make it formal.

Unlike Alaska divorce, a legal separation does not legally terminate a marriage. The couple remains married under the law, but each spouse has no other marital commitments. Legal separation is a great arrangement if you and your spouse have no further interest in your relationship but wish to avoid divorce for personal reasons.

Can I get a divorce in Alaska if I married in another state?

If you and your spouse got married in a different state, you could get your divorce in Alaska. Alaska divorce laws allow you to proceed with a divorce case if you meet the residency requirement. The filing spouse must be an Alaska resident and intend to remain as one for the time being. Otherwise, the court may dismiss the case.

If you and your spouse do not meet the residency requirement, you can consider establishing legal residency before filing for divorce. Alternatively, you can get divorced in a state with the appropriate jurisdiction.

Who gets child custody in Alaska?

If you and your spouse have minor children, child custody is one of the major issues that need to be decided before the court grants your divorce order. In Alaska, both parents have a right to see and spend time with their children regardless of which spouse retains physical custody. Alaska courts usually recommend parenting education classes before making a custody order during the divorce hearing.

After hearing arguments from both parties on why the other spouse should not be granted custody, the court devises a parenting plan—this parenting plan highlights who gets physical custody of the child and who gets legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and resides, while legal custody refers to the right to make important life decisions on behalf of the child.

While physical custody is usually granted to one spouse, legal custody may be shared between spouses. The court considers the child’s best interests in creating the parenting plan. What constitutes the child’s best interests is determined by the following factors:

  • The physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child
  • The ability and desire of each parent to meet these needs
  • The child’s preference if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference
  • The relationship 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 willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child, except that the court may not consider this willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in domestic violence against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either the parent or the child
  • 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 family members directly affects the child’s emotional or physical well-being

Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Alaska?

No, Alaska divorce laws do not require spousal fault for you to file for divorce. You can file for a no-fault divorce in Alaska on the legal grounds of “incompatibility of temperament”—meaning that you and your spouse can no longer work out a harmonious relationship. No-fault divorce grounds are common in uncontested divorces in which both parties are eager to move on from the marriage. 

If you prefer, you can file for a dissolution or divorce on fault-based grounds if you believe that your partner’s actions led to the marriage’s collapse. Keep in mind that you have to prove the relevance of fault-based factors, and your partner has the opportunity to defend the incident(s). 

The court has the authority to grant a divorce on the following fault-based grounds:

  • Adultery or unfaithfulness by a spouse 
  • Deliberate desertion by a spouse for a year or more
  • Either partner has an incurable mental illness and is held in a mental institution for 18 months before the divorce case
  • During the marriage, either partner becomes an illicit-drug addict
  • One spouse perpetrates cruel and inhumane treatment that endangers the mental or physical well-being of the other spouse
  • Personal indignities negatively affected their general lives
  • Persistent drunkenness or domestic violence
  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • There have been no sexual relations between the couple since the beginning of the marriage until the divorce was filed

What factors influence alimony and child support payments?

Child support payments refer to parents’ financial responsibility for their minor children. The court determines who pays child support by following the Alaska child support guidelines. The determining factors of how much child support a parent owes are the custodial arrangement and income capacity of each parent. Usually, the noncustodial parent pays child support.

Depending on the parenting plan, custody of the child is necessary to know how the court applies child support guidelines to a divorce case. Primary physical custody is when the children reside with one parent more than 70% of the time and less than 30% with the other parent. Shared custody exists if the children live with each parent for at least 30% of the year. A divided custody arrangement means that both parents have primary physical custody of different children but no shared custody over any. Lastly, a hybrid custody arrangement exists if there is both physical custody and shared custody of the children.

The judge will consider the following issues to decide the terms of a parenting plan in the child’s best interests:

  • The all-encompassing needs of the child
  • How each parent can provide to meet the child’s needs and their willingness to do so
  • Preference of the child, if the child is old enough and capable of choosing
  • The existing relationship between the child with each parent
  • Any history of domestic violence by either parent
  • The duration that the child has resided in a beneficial environment and the desirability to continue residing there
  • Each parent’s desirability facilitates a solid relationship between the other parent and the child—however, this may not apply if the said relationship endangers the child
  • Evidence that either parent or a household member uses illicit substances
  • Other factors considered by the court

Depending on the proposed custodial household, you can determine how much child support to pay with the child support calculation worksheet.

Alimony is the money paid by one partner to the other monthly. Alaska officially refers to this as spousal support. Spousal support can be ordered as the case is ongoing or when the court grants the divorce decree. The court may order spousal support after considering the following factors:

  • Length of the marital union 
  • Irrational use of marital money
  • Domestic violence or other spousal faults
  • The educational level of each spouse
  • Employment status during the marriage
  • Age and health condition of each spouse 
  • Parental responsibilities during the marriage 
  • The income-producing capacity of each spouse
  • Work skills and work experience
  • The division of marital property
  • Other relevant factors

How are marital assets shared?

Alaska insists that courts share marital assets in an equitable and fair ratio. Anything bought or earned at the time of the marriage until the separation qualifies as marital property. Such may be retirement benefits, pensions, houses, vehicles, and each spouse’s personal property. However, the court will not consider assets acquired before marriage, inheritance, social security benefits, and gifts as marital property. After the court identifies the marital property, it determines the fair market before the commencement of property division.

The judge uses the following factors to determine property division:

  • Marriage duration and standard of living during the union
  • The circumstances and needs of each spouse
  • Age and health of each partner
  • The earning capacity of the property and its market value at the time of division 
  • The current financial status of each spouse, including health insurance benefits
  • Irrational expenses by a spouse or the sale of marital property
  • The desirability of assigning the family home, or the authority to reside there for an agreed time, to the spouse with primary physical custody of children 
  • Each spouse’s income potential, duration of unemployment, educational history, training, occupational skills, job experiences, length of absence from the job market, and parental responsibilities during the marriage
  • How either spouse acquired the property in question

In Summary

Getting a divorce may be the best decision if you are unhappy in your marriage. The process may be challenging but you may find it’s just what you need to get your life on track. I hope this Alaska divorce guide helps you ditch your unhappy marriage to rediscover happiness!

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