What Issues Have To Be Resolved During An Alaskan Divorce?

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Divorce is more than the legal termination of a marriage. Spouses have to decide how they are going to divide property and debt, and whether spousal support will be awarded. If the parties have children, then child custody and child support must also be resolved. As you prepare for divorce, your goal should be to make the process as comprehensive as possible so everything is settled once and for all. No matter what kind of divorce you have, The Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston is ready to go to work for you.

Common Issues During an Alaska Divorce

Here are some of the most common issues that have to be handled during divorce:

Property Division

In Alaska, when a couple ends their marriage, the court must divide all property and debts acquired during the marriage.  There are also circumstances in which a court will include premarital property in the property division, but this is a separate topic for another time.  In any event, the process of dividing marital property and liabilities is known as “equitable distribution.” 

What Does the Term “Equitable” Mean?

“Equitable” does not necessarily mean equal, although a court generally starts with the presumption that a 50/50 division is the most fair and equitable.  Even starting with this presumption, Alaska law requires a judge to consider a number of factors in deciding how to fairly allocate the financial burden of a divorce between the parties. These factors are found in Alaska Statute AS 25.24.160(a), which requires the court to consider:

  • How long the spouses were married and their stations in life;
  • The age and health of the spouses and the availability of health insurance;
  • The spouses’ earning capacity, considering such factors as their career and educational backgrounds;
  • The spouses’ relative financial conditions;
  • The conduct of the parties, including whether there has been an unreasonable depletion of marital assets by a party; and
  • Any other factors a court deems to be relevant

Property and debt acquired by the spouses during their marriage will generally be subject to equitable division, no matter how it is titled or which individual spouse purchased it. There are some exceptions, such as property acquired by inheritance or gift.

Spousal Support

In Alaska there is a preference for meeting a party’s financial needs through an unequal division of property and liabilities. However, a court may award interim or post-decree spousal support if the court  determines that either spouse will need financial support and the other party can afford to pay it. 

The goal of spousal support is to ensure a spouse can manage his or her finances during the marriage or after the divorce. It can be used, for example, to help the financially disadvantaged spouse go back to school or obtain training for a better job.This is known as rehabilitative spousal support. 

A court sometimes will award short-term post-divorce spousal support to allow a spouse time to adjust to changed financial circumstances. Permanent spousal support is rarely awarded in Alaska and usually in cases involving a disabled spouse. Alaska law allows the court to modify a spousal support award based on changed circumstances on the part of either parties.

Child Support

The court uses a formula to calculate child support,found in Civil Rule 90.3  taking into account such factors as the number of overnights the child will stay with both parents and both parents’ respective incomes. If a child spends less than 110 overnights with a parent, then that parent is considered to be the non-custodial parent.  In such a case, only that parent’s income is used in calculating child support.  If a child spends more than 110 overnights with a parent, then the parents are considered to have shared physical custody based on the percentage of overnights the child spends with each parent.  In this type of case, the income of each parent is considered. 

The shared child support formula takes into account the percentage of time (e.g. 70/30 or 50/50)  the child will spend with each parent.  Some issues that arise in child support cases include whether a parent is voluntarily and unreasonably unemployed or underemployed based on the parent’s job history and educational background in which case a court can impute income to a parent based on the income the parent is capable of earning.

Child support can be enforced in a number of ways to compel the responsible parent to pay according to the order. It can also be modified later if there is a significant reason, such as a drastic change in either parent’s income.

Child Custody

Custody is actually divided into two subsets, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority over the child in significant matters such as education, health, and religious upbringing. Courts generally prefer to award joint legal custody, provided the parents can communicate and cooperate reasonably well.

Physical custody is what most people think of when it comes to custody, and refers to which parent the child will spend his or her overnights with. There are three types of physical custody in Alaska: primary, shared, and hybrid. Custody also covers with whom the child will spend holidays, vacations, and birthdays.

The best interests of the child standard governs custody matters. What exactly the “best interests of the child” is will vary from one case to another but typically the court considers the emotional and physical needs of the child, the ability of each parent to meet those needs, the preference of the child (usually children in their mid-teens), substance abuse impacting the family, and the desirability of maintaining the continuity of a child’s living situation.  However, in Alaska the parent who was the primary caregiver is not entitled to a preference over the other parent.

Contact The Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston Today

These are not the only issues that may be handled in your divorce, but they cover most of what you will deal with. Divorce is never easy, no matter how amicable the parties are. Fortunately, you do have options both inside and outside of court. It starts with retaining an experienced and dedicated Alaskan family law attorney. If divorce is on your horizon, reach out to The Law Offices of Peggy A. Roston to get started today.

Posted in: Divorce