Alaska Divorce Laws

Residency Requirements:  Alaska divorce law requires that the spouse filing for divorce be a resident of the state. There is no residency time limit for filing divorce or dissolution actions. Members of the military who have been continuously stationed at a military base or installation in Alaska for at least 30 days is considered a resident of the state for purposes of divorce and dissolution.

Dissolution v. Divorce:  Alaska distinguishes between divorce actions and dissolution actions.

Dissolution: In Alaska, actions for dissolution are based on the "no-fault" grounds of incompatibility of temperament that has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must include detailed provisions regarding custody and child support, visitation, alimony and division of property.

Under Alaska Divorce Law, the spouses may file jointly for dissolution if:

  • There are minor children or the wife is pregnant, and the spouses have agreed on the custody, visitation, and support of the child or children. They must have agreed on whether support will be paid directly or through Child Support Services Division, and on the tax consequences of the agreement, such as exemptions; and
  • The spouses have agreed on the distribution of all marital assets, including retirement benefits and property, and the payment of spousal support, if any, as well as the tax consequences of these agreements; and
  • the spouses have agreed to the payment of all debt and financial obligations incurred by either or both of them, and the payment of obligations incurred by both of them in the future.

Either spouse may file separately for dissolution if:

  • The grounds for dissolution of the marriage is incompatibility of temperament, evidenced by extended separation of the spouses, which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage; and
  • the petitioning spouse is unable to determine the other spouse’s position regarding the dissolution of marriage, the division of marital property, the division of their marital obligations and debt, or issues of spousal support, custody, child support, visitation because the whereabouts of the other spouse is unknown to the petitioning spouse after reasonable attempts to locate the absent spouse; and
  • The absent spouse cannot be personally served with process inside or outside the state.

Divorce:   In Alaska, divorce is granted on the basis of fault of one of the parties for any of the following grounds:
  • Failure to consummate the marriage at the time of the marriage and continuing at the commencement of the action;
  • Adultery;
  • Conviction of a felony;
  • Willful desertion for a period of one year;
  • Either:
    o Cruel and inhuman treatment;
    o Personal indignities rendering life burdensome;
    o Incompatibility of temperament;
  • Habitual drunkenness contracted since the marriage and continuing for at least one year;
  • Incurable mental illness when the spouse has been confined to an institution for at least 18 months;
  • Addiction to drugs, subsequent to the marriage.

Court Procedure: An action for Alaska divorce or dissolution is filed in the Superior Court, typically in the county where the plaintiff or petitioner resides. If the divorce is based upon grounds of fault, the action initiating the divorce is called a Complaint for Divorce, the petitioning party is the Plaintiff and the other party is the Defendant. The action granting the divorce is called the Judgment of Divorce.

If the action for an Alaska divorce is based upon "incompatibility of temperament", the action is called Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the petitioning party is called the Petitioner and the other party is called the Respondent. The action granting the dissolution is called a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

All documents are filed with the County Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court. This office will manage all of the paperwork, and keep the parties and lawyers informed about paperwork requirements, further documents needed, and hearing dates. Filing fees for divorce or dissolution is $150.00.

Common Law Marriage: Alaska law does not statutorily recognize common law marriages. A recent court case, however, ruled that in property disputes between a man and a woman living together in a nonmarital domestic relationship, property should be distributed based upon the express or implied intent of the parties.

Legal Separation: Either or both spouses may file a complaint in Superior Court for legal separation if the court finds an incompatibility of temperament exists between the parties and that the continuation of the parties’ status as married preserves or protects significant legal, financial, social or religious interests. This legal separation does not restore the parties to the status of unmarried persons, but only modifies their rights and responsibilities to the extent specified in the decree of separation.

Generally, provisions for child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support included in the legal separation are final orders and will only be modified under unusual circumstances.

If the legal separation decree provides for division of property and debts, the decree must state whether the division is temporary or a final order. If a temporary order, the decree must address the parties’ rights and responsibilities for the property and debt during and after the time the order is in effect.

Same Sex Marriage: Alaska has adopted the Federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) into its state constitution. Alaska prohibits same-sex marriages or the recognition of same-sex marriages from another jurisdiction.

Mediation: Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third party facilitator (the mediator) helps a couple discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement involving the issues of divorce or dissolution. Parties in mediation create their own solutions and the mediator does not have any decision making power over the parties.

Under Alaska divorce law, either spouse may file a motion requesting mediation. The court on its own motion may order the parties to participate in mediation if it determines that mediation may result in a more satisfactory settlement between the parties. The court normally will not refer a case to mediation when domestic violence has occurred between the parties, unless the victim consents to mediation.

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