Alaska Divorce Basics

This article outlines the rules and procedures for getting a divorce in Alaska.

Grounds for Divorce

Alaska allows for no-fault divorce, which means that a person can file for divorce without having to show wrongdoing on the part of their spouse. The basis for a no-fault divorce is usually “incompatibility of temperament” causing the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. Other grounds for divorce are listed in Alaska Statute § 25.24.050 and include failure to consummate the marriage, adultery, conviction of a felony, and willful desertion for a period of one year.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

There’s no residency requirement in Alaska—in other words, you don’t have to live there for any specific period of time before you can file for divorce. The state does require that the filing party be a resident of Alaska at the time that the action is filed. (Alaska Stat § 25.24.420) However, if the spouse filing for divorce party is not a resident of Alaska, but the other spouse is, then the divorce may be filed in Alaska.

You must wait at least 30 days after the petition for dissolution is filed before you can get a judgment ending your marriage.

Property Division

Alaska is an equitable distribution state, which means that a judge would distribute property in a fair and equitable way upon divorce, but the division doesn’t have to be equal. Generally, any property (including income) acquired during the marriage is considered to be joint property while property that either spouse had before marriage or acquired after separation will be that spouse’s separate property. (Alaska Stat § 25.24.160) When distributing joint property, the court may consider the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, general financial condition, age and health, and circumstances and necessities , among other factors.

Alimony

The court may grant alimony, or spousal support, to either spouse without a consideration of fault. Alimony may be in the form of a lump sum payment or monthly payments that can include cost-of-living adjustments. To determine how much alimony should be paid, the court would consider the length of marriage, the couple’s station in life during marriage, and each spouse’s earning capacity, age and health, and financial condition. (Alaska Stat § 25.24.160)

Child Support

Guidelines for child support in Alaska are available here. The starting point for calculating the amount of child support are the parents’ wages and the number of children. Certain reductions may be factored in, such as the cost of childcare, and child support for other children from previous relationships. The courts are required to follow the guidelines for child support unless the result would be unjust.

Most child support judgments include an income withholding order, which means that the paying parent’s employer will be notified of the order, and the employer will deduct the support amount from the parent’s income automatically and send it to the other parent or the state child support enforcement agency.

The Alaska Child Support Services Division (ACSSD), which is under the Department of Revenue, enforces child support orders in Alaska. Under Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure, a child support order may only be modified if there is a “material change of circumstances” or if a new calculation under the guidelines would result in a change of at least 15% from the amount of the original order.

Child Custody

In Alaska, courts make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child by evaluating a number of factors, including: the child’s needs (social, mental, and emotional), the ability and desire of each parent to meet those needs, any evidence of domestic violence or abuse, and even the child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and mental capacity.

Parents may request that the court modify a child custody order, but modifications must be based on a significant change in circumstances. The court would also examine whether the requested modification would still be in the best interest of the child.

A custodial parent’s desire to move away with the children would be considered a significant change of circumstances, and thus a modification to the child custody order may be appropriate. The Alaska Supreme Court has held that as long as the move by the custodial parent is for a valid reason, and not for the purpose of making visitation with the non-custodial parent more difficult, then the move would be permitted. (House v. House, 779 P.2d 1204 (1989); see also McQuade v. McQuade, 901 P.2d 421 (1995).)

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