Adultery in Alaska: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Learn whether an extramarital affair can impact spousal support in Alaska.

Alimony is technically referred to as "spousal maintenance" in Alaska, but for the purposes of this article, we'll use the common terms "alimony" or "spousal support." This article reviews the basics of alimony in Alaska and how a spouse's adultery might impact an alimony award.

An Overview of Alimony

Alimony refers to the money that one spouse ("the obligor") has to pay to the other ("the obligee") to normalize the financial picture after a divorce. The purpose of making the obligor pay support to the obligee is to keep both spouses as close as possible to the standard of living they enjoyed when they were still a married couple.

Many divorcing spouses are able to agree on alimony. Either they decide to waive it (meaning, they give it up), or they agree that one spouse should pay the other acertain amount of money for a specific period of time. When spouses can't agree, a family court judge will make the final decision.

Alaska has different kinds of alimony. Alaska courts can award alimony or support "for a limited or indefinite period of time, in gross or in installments." This means that if the judge decides to award alimony to the obligee, the obligor might have to pay it permanently or just for a set period of time. The obligor may also be required to pay all the support at one time, or periodically, in smaller payments instead of one lump sum.

Also important to know is that even if your divorce is pending and your marriage hasn't ended yet, the judge could still issue a "temporary order" requiring an obligor to pay temporary alimony during the divorce proceedings. The judge can even order the obligor to pay the obligee's medical expenses as part of this kind of temporary support.

What Role Does Adultery Play in an Alaska Divorce?

Most experts define adultery as an event or condition that occurs when a person who is legally married engages in a voluntary sexual encounter or relationship with someone other than the person's legal spouse. The adulterous spouse is the one who's committed marital misconduct, while the spouse who's been victimized is known as the "innocent spouse."

When it comes to the question of whether a court will grant a divorce, many states, including Alaska, have laws that say that a divorce may be granted based on either spouse's adultery. Although adultery is a ground for divorce in Alaska, there are still defenses to adultery that could prevent a judge from granting a divorce on that ground. If your spouse successfully defended against your claim of adultery, you'd still be able to divorce on other grounds, but not because of the adultery.

There are five possible defenses to a claim of adultery:

  • procurement (meaning that the "innocent spouse" somehow helped the adulterous spouse to commit the wrongful acts)
  • connivance (the "innocent spouse" somehow conspired to set up the adulterous spouse)
  • the innocent spouse openly forgave the adulterous spouse, or implied forgiveness by continuing to voluntarily live together after learning about the adultery
  • both spouses committed separate acts of adultery, without procurement, connivance, or forgiveness, or
  • the innocent spouse learned about the adultery but still didn't begin the divorce process within the next two years.

Even if you've managed to elicit a confession from your cheating spouse, it won't help you much in Alaska. Alaska law specifically says that "in an action for divorce on the ground of adultery, a confession of adultery is not alone sufficient to justify a judgment of divorce."

In Alaska, if adultery has occurred without any defense, that’s reason enough for a married couple to divorce. This means that adultery can be an important variable when you’re trying to obtain a divorce. But when it comes to spousal maintenance in Alaska, adultery has no impact at all.

How Does Adultery Affect Alimony Awards in Alaska?

In some states, a judge might increase the duration or amount of the innocent spouse's alimony award if he or she has proven the other spouse committed adultery. Or, a judge might reduce the amount of property and/or alimony awarded to a cheating spouse.

Alaska, however, is a different story. Alaska's judges are not allowed to consider adultery when they decide alimony. Alimony decisions have to be made "as just and necessary without regard to which of the parties is infault." This means that the judge can't consider marital misconduct. The only factors that can be considered are:

  • the length of the marriage and station in life of the parties during the marriage
  • the age and health of the parties
  • the earning capacity of the parties, including their educational backgrounds, training, employment skills, work experiences, length of absence from the job market, and custodial responsibilities for children during the marriage
  • the financial condition of the parties, including whether there has been unreasonable depletion of marital assets
  • the division of property, and
  • any other factors (other than misconduct like adultery) that the court thinks is relevant in each individual case.

When a judge makes an order about property division and alimony, the order has to "fairly allocate the economic effect of dissolution and take into consideration" the above factors. This means that the court has to divide the property in a fair and reasonable way that doesn't enrich one spouse and impoverish the other. Fairness, not wrongful conduct like adultery, is the prevailing principle.

Get detailed information on how alimony is determined, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Alaska.

Additional Resources

If you have questions about alimony and adultery in Alaska, please contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

For self-help purposes, you can also look at the Alaska Court System's Self-Help Center for Family Law website, the Alaska Court System's Legal Research Center, and even check the current, official, and fully-searchable version of the Alaska Statutes.

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