Area of Law:
Filing for divorce is never an easy decision. To begin a divorce proceeding in Alaska, file a petition for dissolution of marriage with the local county court’s clerk. The spouse filing the petition is the petitioner, and the other spouse is the respondent. In Alaska, only the filing spouse must be a resident of Alaska, the respondent does not need to be a resident of the state. Alaska determines residency by evaluating whether the petitioner is a resident at the time of filing, and whether the petitioner intends to continue to live as a resident of Alaska. In addition, if the respondent is a resident of Alaska, the petitioner can file the divorce petition in Alaska. After the petitioner files the divorce petition, the petitioner must provide the respondent with a copy of the filed divorce petition. You can obtain a divorce petition by visiting the Alaska Family Help Center’s website http://www.courts.alaska.gov/minor.htm.
Along with a divorce petition, you will need to submit a filing fee of $150 to the clerk’s office. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, and if you can show proof of your low-income status, the court will sometimes waive the filing fee. Alaska is a no-fault divorce state, meaning spouses will not need to show that one spouse is at fault for causing the divorce. Generally, you must wait at least 30 days after filing for divorce before the judge will sign the final divorce decree in Alaska. The waiting period begins once you serve the respondent with the divorce petition. However, if you and your spouse disagree about many material issues, like child support or the division of the marital property, your divorce can take much longer than 30 days to become final.
One issue that may arise during the divorce is the division of marital assets. All assets acquired during the marriage are marital assets. In Alaska, courts divide the marital assets according to what the court believes to be a fair distribution. For example, if one spouse earns significantly more than the other spouse does, the court may award the lesser earning spouse a greater share of the marital assets. However, the court will not divide each spouse’s separate property. Separate property is property a spouse obtained prior to the marriage, or during the marriage because of a gift or bequest. In addition, the court will divide marital debt as well as marital assets. Any debt acquired after the date of separation is each spouse’s separate debt.
If you and your spouse can agree about the division of the marital property, consider drafting a marital settlement agreement. In Alaska, the court does not need to approve the marital settlement agreement for it to become effective. However, agreeing on settlement terms is often the hardest part of a divorce proceeding. Therefore, the court may recommend both spouses attend mediation to try to resolve any contested issues.
If you have any additional questions regarding how to file a divorce petition in Alaska, visit the Alaska Self Help Center’s website http://www.courts.alaska.gov/shcstart.htm.