How Do I File for Divorce in Alaska?

Learn about the steps you’ll need to take to start the divorce process in Alaska—and how you can get help.

By , Retired Judge

Along with the emotional and practical issues involved in ending a marriage, the divorce process itself requires navigating the legal system in Alaska. While that might seem overwhelming, it doesn't have to be all that difficult, particularly if you and your soon-to-be ex can cooperate. Here's what you need to know to get started with an Alaska divorce.

What to Know Before Filing for an Alaska Divorce

Before you begin the process of filing for divorce in Alaska, you should figure out the answers to a few preliminary questions.

Do You Meet Alaska's Residency Requirements for Divorce?

Unlike most other states, you don't have to live in Alaska for any specific period of time to get a divorce in the state. Instead, either you or your spouse must simply be a state resident when you file your divorce papers. (Alaska Stat. § 25.24.090 (2022).)

To be considered a resident of Alaska, you must live in the state and plan to stay indefinitely. (Perito v. Perito, 756 P.2d 895 (Alaska 1988).)

Even though you may file for divorce in Alaska if your spouse doesn't live in the state, you should know that the judge may not have the legal authority (known as "jurisdiction") to order your spouse to pay money or transfer property as part of the divorce judgment unless the two of you lived as a married couple in Alaska for at least six consecutive months during the six-year period before you file for divorce. (Alaska Stat. § 09.05.015(a)(12) (2022).)

Will Your Divorce Be Uncontested or Contested?

If you can file for an uncontested divorce in Alaska, the entire process will be much easier, quicker, and less expensive than a traditional contested divorce. But for a divorce to be truly uncontested, you and your spouse will have to agree about all of the issues involved in ending your marriage, including:

Once those issues are resolved, it's typical to incorporate the settlement terms in a marital settlement agreement.

When you have an uncontested divorce in Alaska, you and your spouse will usually file for what's called a "dissolution of marriage." A dissolution is basically the same as a divorce, but some of the forms and procedures are different.

Do You Have Legal Grounds for Divorce?

As in all states, you need a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in Alaska. The grounds for divorce in Alaska are different for divorce and dissolution of marriage.

  • If you're filing for an uncontested dissolution of marriage, you and your spouse will simply state that your marriage has broken down and that you don't want to be married any more. (Alaska Stat. § 25.24.200(a)(1) (2022).)
  • For a divorce, Wyoming allows both fault and no-fault grounds. You may file for a no-fault divorce by stating that you and your spouse are incompatible. If you file for a fault-based divorce, you'll have to claim (and prove) that your spouse engaged in a type of misconduct listed in the law, such as adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, or "personal indignities." (Alaska Stat. § 25.24.050 (2020).)

Ordinarily, it doesn't pay to file for divorce on fault grounds, because it tends to make the process more contentious, and it reduces the chances of reaching a settlement. The more there is to fight about in a divorce, the longer the process takes and the more expensive it becomes (think legal fees).

Will You Need Professional Help With Your Divorce?

If you have a settlement agreement and a relatively uncomplicated case, you should be able to handle filing for dissolution of marriage or uncontested divorce by yourself, without hiring a lawyer. A do-it-yourself divorce will be the cheapest route to ending your marriage, but it will take some time and attention to detail to make sure you have all the right forms, have filled them out correctly, and have followed all of the steps and requirements.

Short of having an attorney represent you in the divorce, there are other ways of getting help with the process. For example, you could do one or a combination of the following:

  • If you want the advantages of a dissolution of marriage but are having trouble agreeing with your spouse about some issues, divorce mediation may help you work through the obstacles and reach an agreement.
  • You can file for divorce online by using a service that will provide you with the completed forms and basically walk you through the process. But online divorce services normally require that you have an uncontested divorce.
  • Even if you pursue the do-it-yourself or online divorce option, you might want to consult with a lawyer when you have questions or want an independent legal review of your settlement agreement.

Without an agreement, you'll follow a traditional contested divorce route. Because that will almost certainly require hiring a lawyer—who will take care of the forms, filing, and all other legal matters during the divorce—the information outlined below is mainly focused on the filing process for couples who are handling their own divorce.

Preparing the Initial Divorce Papers

You can find the the forms and instructions for both divorce and dissolution of marriage on the website for the Alaska Courts Self-Help Center. There are separate forms for marriages without children and with children. You can also find additional information on the divorce process at AlaskaLawHelp.org.

There are different sets (or packets) of forms, depending on whether you have minor children, have an agreement with your spouse, and plan to file for divorce together. The necessary forms may vary from court to court, so you should contact the court clerk's office in the judicial district where you're filing for divorce (more on that below) to see whether they have special form requirements.

  • Dissolution of marriage. When you and your spouse have a complete settlement agreement, you may file a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" together. This way, you'll be able to skip some steps in the process. There are separate packets of forms for couples with and without minor children.
  • Dissolution of marriage with missing spouse. If you haven't been able to find your spouse, you may file a petition on your own ("Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: One Spouse"). You'll have to include an "Affidavit of Diligent Inquiry" detailing all of your efforts to track down your spouse. You should know that with this type of dissolution, the judge may legally end your marriage but may not issue orders concerning other issues like child custody, child support, or property division.
  • Uncontested divorce. Alaska also offers forms for an uncontested divorce (with or without children), rather than dissolution. Some judges may prefer this. Again, check with the court clerk. You might also want to consult with a divorce lawyer to see whether there's any advantage to filing one over the other. There's also an expedited uncontested divorce process if you've been married for two years or less, have no minor children, and meet other requirements (which include limits on the amount and types of property you may own).
  • Contested divorce. If you and your spouse disagree about any of the issues in ending your marriage, you'll file a "Complaint for Divorce." In this case, the spouse who's starting the process (the "plaintiff") will complete and file the complaint alone. The other spouse is called "the defendant.

Your signatures on the petition or complaint must be notarized. But when you and your spouse are filing joint forms, you don't need to sign at the same time and place.

Filing the Divorce Papers

Once you've gathered, completed, and signed the forms, the next step is to file the divorce papers with the Superior Court Clerk in the district where the reason for your divorce happened (which is usually where you and your spouse lived together), or where your spouse lives now. (Alaska Rules Civ. Proc., rule 3(c) (2022).)

Alaska has been phasing in the use of electronic filing of court documents through the state's eFiling system. Check with the court clerk's office to see if electronic filing is available and mandatory in your district. If you don't need to use the eFiling system, you can bring the paperwork in person or mail it to the clerk's office.

Be prepared for the fact that Alaska courts charge fees to file legal documents.The state's filing fee for divorce is $250 (as of 2022, but always subject to change). It's always worth checking with the court clerk's office to confirm the current fee amount and the types of payments they'll accept.

If you can't afford the filing fee, you may request a waiver by filing a "Request for Exemption from Payment of Fees" along with the rest of the divorce papers. You won't be able to move ahead with your case until the judge decides whether you qualify for the waiver.

Next Steps in Your Alaska Divorce

After you've filed the divorce papers, pay attention to the next steps that might be needed to move your case along.

Serving and Responding to a Contested Divorce Complaint

If you and your spouse filed a joint dissolution petition or divorce complaint, simply make sure that both of you have copies of all the documents you filed with the court. There's no need to go through formal "service of process," and your spouse won't file a response.

But if you filed a complaint on your own, you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers, including the summons (which the court clerk will prepare and give to you when you file the paperwork). Generally, a state-authorized process server, often a member of the state police or a local police department, will serve the documents by hand-delivering them to your spouse. Some courts may allow you to mail the documents by certified or registered mail. Ask the court clerk about the local rules, as well as about alternate methods of service when you haven't been able to find your spouse.

You'll need to file a "Civil Rule 4(f) Affidavit" as proof that you've served your spouse with the divorce papers. If you haven't done so within 120 days after filing the divorce complaint, the court will dismiss your case unless you've provided a satisfactory reason for the delay. (Alaska Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4 (2022).)

Your spouse may file an answer that agrees or disagrees with anything you've stated or requested in the divorce complaint. (The forms for responding to a complaint are also on the court website.) If your spouse doesn't file a response within 20 days after receiving the divorce papers, you may file an application for a default divorce. Then, after a hearing, the judge may sign a default judgment that grants everything you requested in the complaint.

Financial Disclosures

Early on in your Alaska divorce, you and your spouse must exchange detailed information about your income, property, other assets, and debts, along with releases allowing the other spouse to get certain financial information for six months. (Alaska Rules Civ. Proc., rule 26.1 (2022).) You may also be required to file financial statements with the court.

Parenting Education Course

If you and your spouse have minor children, you'll have to take a parenting education course before the judge will grant your final divorce decree. Usually, you'll be able to meet this requirement by watching a video or completing an online class. The specific parent education requirements depend on your court location.

When a Judge May Require Divorce Mediation

In contested divorces, the judge may order your and your spouse to participate in mediation in an effort to resolve your disputes. Either spouse may request a mediation order within 45 days after the defendant spouse has filed an answer. Judges may also order mediation on their own any time during the case. However, judges won't ordinarily order mediation if there's evidence of domestic violence in the marriage. (Alaska Stat. § 25.24.060 (2022).)

Finalizing Your Alaska Divorce

According to the Alaska Courts website, the earliest you can get your divorce decree is generally 30 days after you filed the complaint. How long it will actually take depends largely on whether you have an uncontested or contested case.

Even with an uncontested dissolution or divorce, you'll generally need to attend a hearing to get your final divorce. You may file a motion (individuallly or jointly with your spouse) to request permission to attend the hearing by phone, but you'll need a good reason for your request.

Most couples with contested divorces eventually reach a settlement, usually with the help of their lawyers, a mediator, or both. But the process can take several months. And if they have to go to trial to have a judge resolve one or more issues, it could take a year or more to get a final divorce.

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