The end of a marriage is usually fraught with argument and ill will. However, given time for nerves to cool, many spouses seeking a divorce are able to reach a mutual agreement on the terms of a divorce. For spouses who want a quicker and less expensive end to the divorce process, an uncontested divorce may be ideal. Here's an overview of the nature of an uncontested divorce and Alaska dissolution of marriage law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Alaska Defined
Like many states, Alaska provides a separate fast track mechanism for couples to seek a joint uncontested divorce. There is an important terminology difference, however, that may not be familiar. In Alaska, both divorce and dissolution of marriage mean two different things. In Alaska, a divorce lawsuit is a contested divorce proceeding. A dissolution of marriage proceeding, however, is an uncontested divorce proceeding. Both dissolution of marriage and divorce filings can result in a final divorce, but the terminology distinction is important for filing purposes.
The dissolution of marriage process is a joint-filing process. This means that the spouses must be in total and absolute agreement on the terms of the dissolution. Any confusion will result in your petition for dissolution being dismissed, which means you will have to file for contested divorce.
Requirements for Seeking a Alaska Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce (dissolution) in Alaska, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Anyquestions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Alaska family law attorney or family lawyer.
First, the Alaska state divorce residency requirement must be satisfied. In Alaska the spouses filing for divorce (in the case of a joint dissolution filing, both spouses) must live within the state of Alaska and not have any immediate intent to leave the state.
Second, the spouses must demonstrate that sufficient grounds for dissolution exist. Alaska’s dissolution of marriage process is a no-fault system. This means that the spouses simply need to allege that “incompatibility of temperament caused an irremediable breakdown of the marriage,” which means simply that the marriage did not work out.1
Third and finally, the spouses must reach an agreement on the terms of the dissolution. As uncontested dissolution petitions are usually filed jointly, the spouses should make sure to agree on all issues involved in the divorce. This agreement usually takes the form of a legally-binding separation agreement.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses tosign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separationagreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation.A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and maybe helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement(or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
In creating a separation agreement, the spouses should make sure to resolve each of the following issues:
- Distribution of marital property (including the marital residence);
- Division of tax and retirement benefits;
- Division of marital debts;
- Spousal support;
- Custody of any marital pets;
- Child custody;
- Child visitation rights (including grand-parental visitation rights);and
- Child support
Before approving of any marital separation agreement, the court will usually try to ascertain whether the agreement is fair. If the agreement is unfair to one spouse, the court may alter the agreement in accordance with court guidelines. This type of revision is most common for spousal support, child visitation rights, and child support. Wherever a child is involved, the court’s duty is to the best interests of the child, not the desires of the parents.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Alaska
Once you have decided to file for a dissolution of marriage, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your dissolution paperwork properly.
- If you are planning to file for dissolution of marriage without the assistance of an attorney, you should begin by discussing the terms of the joint filing with your spouse and preparing the dissolution of marriage paperwork. The Alaska Court system’s website has a useful set of sample dissolution forms approved for use across the state.2
- Next, you will need to determine the proper venue; that is, you need to determine where you should file for dissolution. You should file for dissolution in the Superior Court sitting in the county where either spouse meets the Alaska residency requirement.
- Both spouses will need to jointly file a petition for dissolution of marriage. For more information on what information needs to be in the petition, see the Alaska dissolution of marriage statute.3Once the petition is filed, the spouses should file an appearance, waiver of time to answer, and a waiver of notice of hearing if they want to request a divorce without a court hearing.
- Wait! In Alaska, the court cannot hear your dissolution of marriage petition until at least thirty days after filing.
- Once the thirty-day period has passed, the presiding judge will be allowed to rule on the divorce. If the spouses have filed waivers of hearings, the court may grant the divorce without holding a hearing and mail the dissolution of marriage decree to the spouses. If the court decides that a hearing is necessary for some reason (normally this will occur because the spouses have a minor child), the spouses should attend the divorce hearing, at which point, the judge will rule on the dissolution.
For more information about filing for divorce in Alaska, visit the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Center online.4
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Alaska Stat. § 25.24.200.
- Alaska Stat. § 25.24.210.
- , ALASKA COURT SYSTEM SELF-HELP CENTER: FAMILY LAW, ; , ALASKA COURT SYSTEM SELF-HELP CENTER: FAMILY LAW.