If you decide to end your marriage, there are certain issues that have to be settled. For example, if you and your spouse have children, you’ll have to decide how much time each parent is going to spend with them and how much child support has to be paid. You’ll also have to divide your property and debts.
If you and your spouse agree on all the important issues, an Alaska court will grant you a “dissolution of marriage,” which means that the marriage has ended by mutual agreement. If you can’t agree on the important issues, you’ll receive a court order for divorce, which means that the marriage has ended and the court had to decide some or all of the issues. Either way, the marriage will be over.
In order to start the divorce process, you’ll need to complete some forms. You can obtain the forms online, from the Alaska Court System’s Self-Help Center, but you should double-check with your local court to make sure the judges there will accept them.
Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. If not, write or print neatly and legibly.
If you and your spouse have minor children or the wife is pregnant:
If you and your spouse do not have minor children and the wife is not pregnant:
When you’re ready, make two copies of all documents. Eventually you will give one to the other spouse and keep the other for yourself.
Go to your local courthouse and ask to file the documents. You’ll need to pay a fee unless you complete Form TF-920 and the court agrees that the fee should be waived because you can’t afford it.
Ask the court clerk to give you two copies of the summons and standing order, then assemble a packet for your spouse that includes everything you filed plus the summons and standing order. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving.
It is possible to file everything with the court by mail, if necessary. Make two copies to keep for yourself, and make sure everything is signed and notarized as required, then mail in all the forms. Send in the filing fee (or Form TF-920) and also include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with adequate postage. The court clerk will use the envelope to return two copies of the summons and standing order to you.
When you’ve prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents. Service of process is very important in the American legal system because it ensures that everyone has notice about what’s going on and an opportunity to “appear,” or argue, their point of view. Service of process ensures that no one is ever “ambushed” in a courtroom.
If your spouse is an adult who is pro se (meaning, has not hired a lawyer), then you should serve your spouse directly at the location at your spouse’s home address. If your spouse has retained a lawyer, serve the lawyer at the lawyer’s office and don’t send copies to your spouse.
When you are serving the Summons and Complaints that are included in some of the divorce packets, special service rules apply. You have to serve the Summons and Complaint either by using certified mail, return receipt requested or you must hire a process server. You can’t deliver the documents by hand or by regular first class mail.
Virtually all other documents can be served by first class mail or hand delivery.
Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone in the military, out-of-state, or in jail. Check the Self-Help Center’s service page for more advice in these unusual situations.
When the clerk files your documents and returns the summons and standing order to you, take a moment to read them. The standing order is a court order issued at the beginning of every case. It requires everyone who is taking legal measures to end their marriage to complete a Financial Declaration.
A Financial Declaration is an affidavit, or statement sworn in front of a notary, that details each spouse’s financial picture, from employment to assets to liabilities and monthly expenses. This helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, or whether one spouse should receive alimony. The standing order requires every spouse to complete a Financial Declaration. Make sure you are clear, detailed, and candid when you complete this form. File it with the court and serve it upon your spouse as well.
If you need extra help or if you just have questions, the State of Alaska holds a number of family law classes and clinics in various communities throughout the state.
If you don’t live near one of the communities that hosts these classes and clinics, you’re not out of luck. Another good alternative is to call the Family Law Self-Help Center at (907) 264-0851 (statewide) or (866) 279-0851 (toll-free). You can call Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Alaska time. The Helpline is staffed by experienced and knowledgeable court employees.
You can also view YouTube videos prepared by the Family Law Self-Help Center. Topics include Divorce and Custody Cases in Alaska, and Hearing and Trial Preparation for Family Law Cases.
Finally, if you need to look up an unfamiliar word, you can check the Glossary of Family Law Terms for more information.
If you need legal advice from a professional, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.