In Alaska, there are two ways to end your marriage. Dissolution and Divorce.

First, you and your spouse can “dissolve” your marriage.

You can end your marriage through a dissolution.  A dissolution involves filing a joint petition for a dissolution. To be eligible to end your marriage through the dissolution process, you and your spouse must have reached an agreement on how you are going to divide your property and debts.  Also, if you have children, you must have reached an agreement on child custody and child support.

If you haven’t agreed on property and custody, then you are not eligible for a dissolution.  If you don’t know the whereabouts of your spouse, then you are not eligible for a dissolution.  In both of these situations, to end your marriage, you will have to file a divorce case in superior court.

There are several advantages to using the dissolution process.  The dissolution process is designed to be DIY.  The court system has the necessary forms for you to complete on its website.  There are also instructions on how to complete the forms.  Going through a dissolution should save you money because you don’t need an attorney to represent you.  In fact, most couples going through a dissolution do not have attorneys.  But as a caveat, it is still a good idea to spend the money to have an attorney go through your dissolution paperwork with you.

There are several disadvantages to the dissolution process.   The court forms require you to provide detailed information about your finances, including your property, your liabilities, and your income.  Although there are instructions on how to complete the forms, the instructions can be confusing. Also, once you file the paperwork for the dissolution in court, it becomes part of the court record- except for Social Security numbers.

Ending a marriage through a dissolution is best suited for couples who are young and have not accumulated a lot of property. The dissolution process is not the best option for couples with business interests or retirement accounts.  In particular, the dissolution process is not the best option in a case where one or both of the spouses own and operate a business, because of the lack of protection for financial information in a dissolution.

Second, you and your spouse can get a divorce.

The second way to end a marriage for you to get divorced. Getting divorced involves filing a complaint for divorce.  But getting divorced does not necessarily mean that you and your spouse will hire attorneys and fight to the bitter end.  In fact, most cases settle.

Often cases settle before either party files the complaint for divorce.  There are several ways this can happen. Sometimes, a couple will negotiate an agreement on how to divide their property and share the custody of their children.  In this situation, they can file a complaint for an uncontested divorce.

Sometimes, a couple will use the services of a mediator to facilitate the process of negotiating a divorce settlement.  Another option is for each spouse to hire an attorney to negotiate a divorce settlement on his or her behalf.  Once the couple has hammered out a settlement agreement, they can file an uncontested divorce complaint.  Or, if each or both have attorneys, one of the attorneys can file a complaint for divorce.

Sometimes, a couple will decide that they want to use the Collaborative Divorce process to negotiate a divorce settlement. This process is unique. In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse hires a specially trained collaborative attorney. Both spouses and their attorneys sign a contract, which sets out in detail the collaborative divorce rules.  Following these rules and with the help of their attorneys and other professionals, the parties negotiate a final divorce settlement, which one of the attorneys will reduce to writing.

In all of these examples, the couple will reach a final divorce settlement agreement in writing before either of them files the complaint for divorce.  But it is important for you to know that a Superior Court judge must approve a divorce settlement agreement before the judge enters a final decree of divorce.  You can learn more about getting to the finish line in my February 4, 2016 article about the nuts and bolts of getting your divorce done.