What You Need to Know About Getting Your Divorce Case Started.

The first steps to a divorce: 

Recently, I have had a client ask me to explain to him how we will start his divorce case in superior court and what documents we will file to get the case going.  His question gave me the opportunity to take a look at my post on the Roadmap of the Alaska Divorce Process.   I wrote this post on October 22, 2015.  It covers alot of territory because, as its title states, it is supposed to be a “Roadmap”.   The first stop on the Roadmap is about Starting the Alaska Divorce Process.  The first stop talks about what happens once the divorce complaint is filed in court.  It also describes the court deadlines for the parties once a case has been filed.

This article takes a look at the legal documents we have to file to start a divorce case.

 1.        The complaint for divorce.

The complaint for divorce is the document, in which the party filing the case asks for a divorce. It is a short form. The purpose is to notify the court that the court has jurisdiction over the parties.  It also notifies the court if there are children born of the marriage and if there are assets and liabilities which the court has to the divide. The form also recites the grounds for divorce.  Alaska is a “no fault state.”  Therefore, it is enough to state there is an incompatibility of temperament which renders the continuation of the marriage impossible.

Finally, the complaint recites the relief the plaintiff requests the court to give to the plaintiff. This usually includes:

1.         The entry of a final decree of divorce terminating the bonds of marriage based on the parties incompatibility of temperament,

2.         The entry of a final custody order,

3.         The entry of final child support order,

4.         The entry of an order equitably dividing the marital property and liabilities,

5.         The entry of an order addressing whether the parties should each pay their own attorney’s fees or whether one of the parties should pay for the attorney’s fees, and

6.         A “catch-all” request for such further relief as the court deems just and equitable.

Although the complaint is the first document in the case, the court system requires the filing of other documents as well.  So the complaint is not filed alone.  It is filed together with the documents, which I have listed below.

2.         The certificate of divorce.

The certificate of divorce is the form, which lists vital statistics about each of the parties, including their names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates and dates of prior divorces.   The certificate of divorce remains in the court file until the clerk closes the case.  The court system transmits the certificate to the Department of Vital Statistics.

3.         The child custody jurisdiction affidavit.

If there are minor children, then each party must file the child custody jurisdiction affidavit listing the place of residence for each child for the last five years.  The purpose of the form is to allow the court system to confirm that Alaska is the home state of each child, and there is no case pending in another state.

The “home state” is the state where a child has lived for at least six months before the date the divorce is filed.  Disputes over whether Alaska is the home state are rare – these disputes sometimes occur when a parent has moved to Alaska to establish the children’s residency here with the intent to file a complaint for divorce in Alaska.  Disputes may also occur if a case has been filed in another state before the date the case is filed in Alaska.

4.         The information form.

This form lists the name, social security number and dates of birth of each of the parties and their children.

5.         The summons.

The summons is the written notice, which is served on the defendant and gives notice that a complaint has been filed in superior court and that the defendant must file an answer within 20 days of the service of the summons on the defendant.   Service of process is the legal term for delivery of the complaint to the defendant.   The attorney who is starting the case will include the summons with the names of the parties and a description of how the defendant will be served – which is either by a person called a process server or by mail.

6.         The case description form and the yellow card.  

These are two court required documents.  The first is a “check the box form” for the attorney to complete.  The second is an index card with the attorney’s contact information.

7.         The child support affidavit. 

If the parties have children, each spouse is required to file the form known as the child support affidavit. This affidavit is used to calculate child support under Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 90.3.  Each party is required to file an affidavit together ith proof of income in the form of the most recent tax return, W-2, or year-to-date pay statement.  The deadline for filing the child support affidavit is 45 days after the date the defendant serves the answer to the complaint.

You must supply the following information with the child support affidavit.

1.         Copies of 4 of your most recent pay stubs,

2.         A copy of your most recent tax return together with all schedules, attachments, W-2s, and form 1099’s,

3.         Your employer’s name, address and phone number,

4.         A letter from your employer or health insurance company with the following information:

a.         A description of your current health insurance coverage,

b.         A statement of the family members covered under the plan, and

c.         A statement of the amount of the premium for (1) you alone, and (2) for you and your child/children

5.         If you did NOT receive the Alaska PFD, you must explain why you did not receive a PFD and for how many years.

The number of documents, which go with the complaint may seem overwhelming, which is why many people wish to have a lawyer get involved in their case.  But there are many other people who will take the plunge themselves so if you are a DIY type of person, handling your own divorce is certainly doable.

Posted in: Divorce