Alaska Divorce Laws: Child Custody & Support, Alimony, Property Division

The following is a summary of Alaska divorce laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Alaska Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Alaska Divorce Grounds

The laws of Alaska recognize no fault divorce, granted on the grounds that “The parties have an incompatibility of temperament which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” If you decide to use our no fault divorce services, this is the ground that will be used.

The following fault grounds are also recognized under Alaska divorce laws:

  1. failure to consummate the marriage;
  2. adultery;
  3. conviction of a felony;
  4. willful desertion for a period of one year;
  5. cruel and inhuman treatment calculated to impair health or endanger life;
  6. personal indignities rendering life burdensome;
  7. incompatibility of temperament;
  8. habitual gross drunkenness contracted since marriage and continuing for one year prior to the commencement of the action;
  9. incurable mental illness when the spouse has been confined to an institution for a period of at least 18 months preceding the commencement of the action; or
  10. addiction to drugs.

-From the Alaska Statutes 25.24.050

Alaska Residency Laws

There are no residency requirements under Alaska divorce laws, but at least one party must be a physical resident of the state.

How to file for divorce in Alaska

You can file the divorce papers in the Alaska county where you or your spouse live. In Alaska, when you and your spouse are in agreement about the divorce, you file a joint petition. Both spouses must sign each page of the petition, but you will not be required to serve your spouse with any of the divorce papers.

Alaska Final Divorce Hearing

Both spouses must ordinarily attend the final uncontested divorce hearing. Laws require at least one spouse to attend. If one spouse can show that it would be a “significant hardship” for them to attend the final divorce hearing, the judge might allow the divorce with only one spouse’s attendance at the final hearing. You will have to submit the proper papers to the court. The judge will make his or her decision whether the hardship is significant enough to allow the spouse not to attend the hearing, based on the reasons you give in the paperwork.

Learn more about the divorce procedure.

Waiting Period Before Divorce is Finalized in Alaska

The final divorce decree cannot be signed in Alaska until at least 30 days have passed since filing the divorce papers.

Additional Information

A joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is used in Alaska, unless the other spouse cannot be found. This means that both spouses will sign their names to the divorce papers, instead of one spouse signing and then serving the divorce papers upon the other spouse with a summons. No summons is required with a joint divorce petition.

Alaska Alimony Laws & Guidelines

Many states are now referring to alimony as “maintenance”. This is now the case in Alaska. If you are having trouble coming to an agreement on alimony, you will need to fully understand the laws in your state. A good starting point for doing this is with your state’s statutes – which will usually tell you what type of alimony the state favors and for what length of time, as well as the determining factors in setting an award for alimony. Looking at actual cases in your state that have similar facts to your case will give you more information about what a judge might actually do.

In Alaska, fault is not considered as a factor in awarding alimony. The purpose of alimony is for the recovery of one party, according to Alaska laws; or in other words the chance to get “back on their feet.” It can be for a limited or indefinite period of time, in gross payment or in installments.

[A.S. 25.24.160]
An award of maintenance (alimony) must fairly allocate the economic effect of divorce by being based on a consideration of the following factors:

(A) the length of the marriage and station in life of the parties during the marriage;

(B) the age and health of the parties;

(C) the earning capacity of the parties, including their educational backgrounds, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, and custodial responsibilities for children during the marriage;

(D) the financial condition of the parties, including the availability and cost of health insurance;

(E) the conduct of the parties, including whether there has been unreasonable depletion of marital assets;

(F) the division of property under (4) of this subsection; and

(G) other factors the court determines to be relevant in each individual case.

Learn more about general alimony laws.

Alaska Child Custody Laws

Whether you are writing your own child custody agreement (also called a parenting plan) or are battling it out in court, you should be aware of the child custody laws in Alaska, regarding both physical custody and legal custody.

Alaska’s child custody laws specify a number of factors in determining custody, including the following guidelines:

  1. the physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child;
  2. the capability and desire of each parent to meet those needs;
  3. the child’s preference as to custody if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference;
  4. the love and affection existing between the child and each parent;
  5. the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  6. the desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving frequent relationship between the child and the other parent;
  7. any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect in the household where child custody has been proposed, or a history of violence between the parents;
  8. evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other members of the household directly affects the emotional or physical well-being of the child;
  9. other factors that the court considers pertinent in determining custody of the child.

In awarding child custody, the court may consider only those facts that directly affect the well-being of the child.

In Alaska, joint child custody is known as “shared custody”. The petition for dissolution of marriage in Alaska distinguishes between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is who makes the decisions regarding the children, and physical custody is who the children physically reside with for the majority of the year.

Alaska statutes specifically prohibit the preference of one parent over the other in child custody proceedings. A custody determination is considered based on the “best interests of the child”. If the court believes that shared custody of the child would promote frequent and continuing contact with each parent, and would be in the child’s best interest, the court may award shared custody of the child – either legal, physical, or both.

In determining whether to award shared custody of a child, the court shall consider the following, in addition to the above factors:

  1. the child’s preference as to custody if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a preference;
  2. the needs of the child;
  3. the stability of the home environment likely to be offered by each parent;
  4. the education of the child;
  5. the advantages of keeping the child in the community where the child presently resides;
  6. the optimal time for the child to spend with each parent, considering:
    (A) the actual time spent with each parent;
    (B) the proximity of each parent to the other and to the school in which the child is enrolled;
    (C) the feasibility of travel between the parents;
    (D) special needs unique to the child that may be better met by one parent than the other;
    (E) which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the other parent;
  7. any findings and recommendations of a neutral mediator;
  8. any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect in the household where custody has been proposed, or a history of violence between the parties;
  9. evidence that substance abuse by either parent or other members of the household directly affects the emotional or physical well-being of the child;
  10. other factors not specifically expressed by Alaska laws that are considered pertinent by the court.

In awarding child custody in Alaska, the court shall comply with the provisions of 25 U.S.C. 1901 – 1963 (P.L. 95-608, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978).

Learn more about general child custody laws.

Alaska Child Support Guidelines

Calculation of Child Support

Child support is calculated by multiplying the “adjusted annual income” of the non-custodial parent by a specified percentage.

“Adjusted annual income” means the parent’s total income from all sources minus:

(A) mandatory deductions such as:

(i) federal, state, and local income tax,

(ii) Social Security tax or the equivalent contribution to an alternate plan established by a public employer, and self-employment tax,

(iii) Medicare tax,

(iv) mandatory union dues,

(v) mandatory contributions to a retirement or pension plan;

(B) voluntary contributions to a retirement or pension plan or account in which the earnings are tax-free or tax-deferred, except that the total amount of these voluntary contributions plus any mandatory contributions under item (a)(1)(A)(v) above may not exceed 7.5% of the parent’s gross wages and self-employment income;

(C) child support and alimony payments arising from prior relationships which are required by other court or administrative proceedings and actually paid;

(D) child support for children from prior relationships living with the parent, calculated by using the formula provided by this rule; and

(E) work-related child care expenses for the children who are the subject of the child support order.

The percentage by which the non-custodial parent’s adjusted income must be multiplied in order to calculate the child support award is:

  • 20% for one child;
  • 27% for two children;
  • 33% for three children; and
  • an extra 3% for each additional child.

This calculation does not apply in shared, divided, or hybrid custody situations. For those situations, Alaska has a different way of calculating child support. For more information, please see Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

-From Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

Self Employment Income

Income from self-employment, rent, royalties, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation includes the gross receipts minus the ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce the income. Ordinary and necessary expenses do not include amounts allowable by the IRS for the accelerated component of depreciation expenses, investment tax credits, or any other business expenses determined by the court to be inappropriate. Expense reimbursements and in-kind payments such as use of a company car, free housing or reimbursed meals should be included as income if the amount is significant and reduces living expenses.

-From Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

Potential Income

The court may calculate child support based on a determination of the potential income of a parent who voluntarily and unreasonably is unemployed or underemployed. A determination of potential income may not be made for a parent who is physically or mentally incapacitated, or who is caring for a child under two years of age to whom the parents owe a joint legal responsibility. Potential income will be based upon the parent’s work history, qualifications, and job opportunities. The court also may impute potential income for non-income or low income producing assets.

-From Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

Income Excluded from Child Support Calculation

Means based sources of income such as Alaska Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP), formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Food Stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should not be considered as income. The principal amount of one-time gifts and inheritances should not be considered as income, but interest from the principal amount should be considered as income and the principal amount may be considered as to whether unusual circumstances exist as provided by 90.3(c). Tax deferred dividends and interest earned on pension or retirement accounts, including individual retirement accounts, which are not distributed to the parent are not income. Child support is not income.

-From Rule 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

Extended Visitation

The court may allow the obligor parent to reduce child support payments by up to 75% for any period in which the obligor parent has extended visitation of over 27 consecutive days. The order must specify the amount of the reduction which is allowable if the extended visitation is exercised.

-From Rle 90.3 of the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.

Health Care Coverage

The court shall address coverage of the children’s health care needs and require health insurance for the children if insurance is available to either parent at a reasonable cost. The court shall consider whether the children are eligible for services through the Indian Health Service (or any other entity) or other insurance coverage before ordering the obligor to provide health care coverage through insurance or other means. The court shall allocate equally the cost of this insurance between the parties unless the court orders otherwise for good cause. An obligor’s child support obligation will be decreased by the amount of the obligee’s portion of health insurance payments ordered by the court and actually paid by the obligor. A child support award will be increased by the obligor’s portion of health insurance if the obligee is ordered to, and actually does obtain and pay for insurance.

The court shall allocate equally between the parties the cost of reasonable health care expenses not covered by insurance unless the court orders otherwise for good cause.

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines

The court may deviate from the child support guidelines for good cause upon proof by clear and convincing evidence that manifest injustice would result if the support award were not varied. Good cause may include a finding that unusual circumstances exist which require variation of the award in order to award an amount of support which is just and proper for the parties to contribute toward the nurture and education of their children. The court shall consider the custodial parent’s income in this determination.

Waiver of Child Support

An agreement to waive past or future child support, made between an obligor and a person who is entitled to receive support on behalf of an obligee, is not enforceable unless the agreement is put in writing at the time the agreement is made; and the agreement is signed at the time it is made by both the obligor and the person acting for the obligee. In a separation, dissolution, or divorce proceeding, a court may not accept a waiver of support by a custodial parent without proof that the custodial parent can support the needs of the child adequately.

-From AS 25.27.065

Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division

Alaska Divorce Law on Property Division

When dividing marital property, an Alaska court is usually inclined to accept the property settlement agreement submitted by the parties as long as the agreement is generally fair and not driven by fraud or some form of coercion.

Alaska follows the law of equitable distribution, which basically means that marital property is subject to a fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal, division. All property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. The law does not recognize fault as a consideration in the property division settlement.

[A.S. 25.24.160]
The property division must fairly allocate the economic effects of divorce, based on consideration of the following factors:

  • the length of the marriage and station in life of the parties during the marriage;
  • the age and health of the parties;
  • the earning capacity of the parties, including their educational backgrounds, training, employment skills, work experiences, length of absence from the job market, and custodial responsibilities for children during the marriage;
  • the financial condition of the parties, including the availability and cost of health insurance;
  • the conduct of the parties, including whether there has been unreasonable depletion of marital assets;
  • the desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to live in it for a reasonable period of time, to the party who has the primary custody of children;
  • the circumstances and necessities of each party;
  • the time and manner of acquisition of the property in question; and
  • the income-producing capacity of the property and the value of the property at the time of division.

Learn more about general property division in divorce or common ways to divide your property.

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