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Alaska Divorce Process: What You Need to Know?

When you prepare for a divorce in the Anchorage-Palmer Alaska area, you take steps to identify the financial and emotional pitfalls you could encounter.  The process of a divorce, however, focuses on paperwork, property, and payments.

The Paperwork of Divorce

Your divorce case starts when your attorney files a complaint or petition in the Alaska court in the Anchorage-Palmer region where you live. If you have children under the age of 18, your attorney will file the appropriate paperwork to address child custody issues.

Each divorce is unique, but the next steps in the process usually include:

  • Initial pretrial order. The court issues the pretrial order to prevent the sale of any joint assets or the cancellation of insurance policies.
  • Request for interim support. Paperwork can be filed to get temporary child support, spousal support and help with attorney payments until the divorce is settled. This request can make transitions easier if one of the partners must move out of a shared home or doesn’t have the income to pay for an attorney.
  • Discovery. During this part of the process, each partner must document financial status, including income, assets, bank accounts, retirement accounts, health care and insurance. Discover is mandatory in Alaska divorces, and failure to comply can result in penalties.
  • Scheduling. Partners and their attorneys will decide whether to have a formal trial with a judge, go to mediation, or schedule a settlement conference.  Mediation and settlement conferences are helpful for coming to an agreement about any shared property without the court’s involvement.
  • Decree of divorce. These documents finalize a divorce and include facts and conclusions based on Alaska divorce laws. This paperwork also outlines how the property will be distributed.

Property Settlement in Alaska Divorces

In Alaska, any property purchases (or debt) that occurred during a marriage will be reviewed by the court and distributed between the partners. Property and debt include the following:

  • A shared home
  • Income by both partners such as wages, retirement, and pension funds, business income, and deferred vacation or medical leave time
  • Any assets the partners own including cars, jewelry, and clothes
  • Loans, mortgages and credit card debt shared by the partners during the marriage.

Usually, gifts from one partner to another or any inherited property are excluded from the settlement. Debts the partners had before the marriage are also excluded from the settlement. But the court has the right to consider those exceptions to deliver an equitable distribution of property.

The property settlement process in Alaska divorces is as follows:

  1. Property (and debt) are documented.
  2. Property is assigned a value.
  3. The court divides property.

How the court distributes the property is based on Alaska law. The following circumstances are considered as the court makes its decisions.

  • The duration of the marriage
  • Partners’ age and health
  • Earning power of each partner based on education, training, skills, experience, time away from employment and responsibility for any children
  • Availability of health insurance
  • The behavior of the partners, especially if one has deliberately spent or removed any assets
  • Usefulness of the family residence, particularly if one partner will have custody of children
    needs of each partner
  • How and when the property was purchased
  • The value of the property and any income it could generate

Payments Expected in Alaska Divorces

The circumstances used to distribute property in Alaska divorces are also used to determine if spousal support is needed. If the court agrees to award support, it’s typically for a specific purpose and a limited time. The court can provide two types of support:

  • Rehabilitation. This money pays for education or training for the partner to improve skills or advance. The court requires documentation of goals, the educational program, and the duration, and will award support for up to four years.
  • Reorientation. The court may allow this support as a ‘bridge’ to help a partner adjust to a lower income after the divorce. This award is usually less than one year.

How attorney fees are paid can also be decided by the court. Alaska law permits the court to award a portion or all the fees and court costs, with the decision based on the financial health of the partners. The partner with the lower economic status usually wins this financial support.

If you’re considering divorce or facing a dissolution of marriage in the Anchorage-Palmer area, contact Gayle J. Brown. Gayle will provide an honest assessment of your situation and give you counsel about the best path to take to reach a resolution.

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