Divorce Laws in Anchorage

by Shannon Johnson
A litigated divorce is generally expensive and time-consuming.

A litigated divorce is generally expensive and time-consuming.

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Alaska offers two ways to end a marriage: One, referred to as dissolution of marriage, is an uncontested divorce, meaning both parties agree on all terms, while a "divorce" in Alaska actually refers to a contested divorce in which the spouses disagree on terms. Anchorage residents must file for a divorce/dissolution at the Anchorage Superior Court. Generally, it takes at least 30 days after filing for a divorce/dissolution before the judge will grant the final divorce decree.

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Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce

Generally, the only residency requirements for obtaining either a divorce or dissolution of marriage in Anchorage, or any other Alaska city, is that one of the spouses must reside in the state -- and intend to remain as a resident of the state. Military personnel are considered Anchorage residents once they are stationed in the city for at least 30 days. Like all states, Alaska provides for a no-fault divorce whereby one party does not have to hold the other party responsible for the divorce. The no-fault ground in Alaska is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, meaning that there is no reasonable hope that the marriage can continue. Alaska also offers several fault grounds for divorce including adultery and conviction of a felony.

Property Division

Alaska courts can consider any factors they determine relevant when dividing marital property. Alaska law provides for fair and equitable division of marital property, including debt. Generally, any property or debt acquired during a marriage is considered marital property. However, if one spouse showed the intent to keep certain property separate, either verbally or physically, the property is considered separate property – and not part of the marital estate. The court can consider the length of the marriage when determining the division of property. For example, for a marriage of shorter length, the judge might consider the property that each party brought into the marriage as separate property -- and divide any remaining property as fairly as possible, while property division in a longer marriage might result in more of a 50-50 division. The state of Alaska also allows couples to elect to make their separate property community property by way of agreement when they enter into the marriage. Entering into such an agreement will affect property division.

Child Custody and Support

For divorcing couples with children, custody and support are always major concerns. Alaska courts consider several factors when determining custody. Judges consider the capability and desire of each parent to meet the child’s needs and the relationship each parent has with the child. Alaska courts, as all state courts, determine custody based on the best interests of the child. An Alaska judge can grant sole legal custody, whereby one parent makes all major decisions for the child or joint legal custody, whereby both parents share in all major decisions. Alaska courts determine child support based on the level of physical custody the paying parent has -- and the number of children involved. The paying parent pays a percentage of his net income. A primary custody arrangement is one in which the children live with the paying parent less than 30 percent of the year, while a shared physical custody arrangement is one in which the children reside with the paying parent at least 30 percent of the year but less than 70 percent of the year.

Spousal Support

An Alaska court can order spousal support before the divorce is final, as well as after the divorce is granted. Typically, Alaska courts order support for a specific purpose and a limited amount of time. There are two types of spousal support in Alaska: rehabilitative, which generally doesn’t last any longer than four years, is awarded for the purpose of sending a spouse to school or to retrain for a career; reorientation support helps a spouse get accustomed to living on less money following a divorce. This type of support is usually awarded for maximum of one year.