Alaska Divorce Basics

Divorce and Property Division in Alaska

Food Alaska divorce lawyers will know that divorce should be differentiated from child custody issues in Alaska. While custody cases may be determined in a divorce case, the two are entirely different. Divorce severs the matrimonial bonds between the parties and otherwise determines the division of marital assets and debts that were obtained during the marriage.

It should be noted that Alaska is what is called a “no fault” state, meaning that the court in most circumstances will not take into consideration what caused the divorce when dividing the property.

Equitable Distribution of Property

The court divides property in a divorce case in Alaska under a three-step process called the Wanberg analysis. The first step is the court identifies marital property and debt; the second step is the court values the property and the third step the court equitably divides the property. The equitable distribution of property is based upon Alaska state law under AS 25.24.160(a)(4) that states:

(4) for the division between the parties of their property, including retirement benefits, whether joint or separate, acquired only during marriage, in a just manner and without regard to which of the parties is in fault; however, the court, in making the division, may invade the property, including retirement benefits, of either spouse acquired before marriage when the balancing of the equities between the parties requires it; and to accomplish this end the judgment may require that one or both of the parties assign, deliver, or convey any of their real or personal property, including retirement benefits, to the other party; the division of property must fairly allocate the economic effect of divorce by being based on 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 experiences, 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 desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to live in it for a reasonable period of time, to the party who has primary physical custody of children;

(G) the circumstances and necessities of each party;

(H) the time and manner of acquisition of the property in question; and

(I) the income-producing capacity of the property and the value of the property at the time of division.

Property Subject to Division in a Divorce

Essentially all property and debt that was obtained during the marriage is subject to distribution by the court upon divorce in Alaska. There are few exceptions. The property subject to distribution in an divorce in Alaska includes but is not limited to; the marital home, earnings by either spouse during the marriage, retirement contributions, pensions, businesses, lawsuit recoveries encompassing lost wages, cashable vacation or sick leave, and frequent flier miles, among others.

The only property that is obtained during the marriage that is typically not subject to distribution are gifts to one spouse, and inheritance to one spouse. However, the court may “invade” that property or property obtained before or after the marriage in order to have an “equitable distribution”.

Alaska divorce property division cases can be very complex and complicated depending on the facts of each particular case. It is highly recommended that you hire an experienced Alaska divorce attorney to handle your divorce case. That is especially true when parties have significant assets as your rights to that property need to be protected.

The Life-Cycle of a Divorce Case

Alaska divorce cases are initiated by filing a complaint for divorce with the Alaska court in your jurisdiction. Once the divorce is filed, the court issues what is called the “Initial Pretrial Order” that prevents the parties from dissipating marital assets or otherwise cancelling insurance policies in place.

Once the case is filed, a party may move for interim support, which compels that party to pay to the other interim child support, spousal support, or both, as well as interim attorney’s fees. Interim support is an important tool that can be used to ease the transition in your divorce case, especially where the party is forced to move out of the marital home or one party is economically disadvantaged and cannot afford an attorney.

There is significant discovery that takes place in divorce cases. Discovery are mandatory disclosures to the other party of your financial condition including wages, health care, assets, retirement and bank accounts, insurance, among other disclosures. It is very important to comply with the mandatory disclosures in your Alaska divorce case as a failure to do so may result in sanctions and attorney’s fees for the other party.

Eventually, the parties will either schedule a formal trial in front of the divorce judge or go to mediation or settlement conference. Mediation and settlement conferences are an ideal way for the parties to address their property issues confidentially and come to an agreement. Should the parties fail to agree, there will be a divorce trial where the court will decide how to divide the parties’ property.

If the parties settle their divorce, or the court decides, the court will issue a decree of divorce and findings of fact and conclusions of law. Those documents determine the final outcome of the property distribution.

Alimony in Alaska Divorce Cases

Alimony tends to be the exception and not the rule in divorce cases in Alaska. And, the Alaska divorce courts prefer to divide property unequally in lieu of alimony. That being said, there are legal requirements set forth by Alaska law for alimony under AS 25.24.160(a)(2):

(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 experiences, 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;

There are three different types of alimony that Alaska divorce courts consider. Those three different types of alimony are, Rehabilitative Alimony, Reorientation Alimony, and Permanent Alimony.

Rehabilitative Alimony is temporary payments made by one spouse to the other in order for that spouse to obtain marketable job skills to increase their earning capacity in the future. For instance, one party may be required to pay for a bachelor’s degree for the other, or to pay for technical school in order to learn a trade. Rehabilitative Alimony is only paid for a specific purpose and will terminate should the spouse obtaining the alimony fail to complete or enroll in the program.

Reorientation Alimony or Transitional Alimony allows the “disadvantaged spouse” to transition form their current financial position to a reduced financial position over time. The “disadvantaged spouse” typically has a lower earning capacity than the other spouse paying the alimony.

Permanent Alimony is permanent payments from one spouse to the other for support. Permanent Alimony is rare in Alaska divorce cases and typically ceases upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse.

Attorney’s Fees in Alaska Divorce Cases

Alaska allows for the award of some or all of a parties’ attorney’s fees and costs in divorce cases. The court makes attorney’s fee awards based upon the economic circumstances of the parties during the divorce. If one party is in a weaker economic state than the other, the court is more likely to award attorney’s fees.

The Alaska Divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Evan Barrickman, P.C. handle Alaska divorce cases across the state. Contact the Law Office of Evan Barrickman, P.C. today for a consultation.