Alaska Divorce Laws

Making the decision to file for divorce is always a little emotional, but understanding Alaska’s divorce laws can help you make a more informed choice.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

  • No-fault divorce is allowed on the grounds that “the parties have an incompatibility of temperament which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”
  • Other fault grounds include adultery, failure to consummate marriage, felony conviction, willful desertion for one year, abuse, personal indignities, drunkenness, mental illness requiring institutionalization for 18 months, and drug addiction.
  • One party must be a physical resident of Alaska, but there are no other residency requirements.

Individuals who are in the military are considered residents of Alaska if they have been continuously stationed at an Alaskan military base or installation for at least 30 days prior to the divorce filing. Military family law applies when the non-filing spouse, or the respondent, is a member of the military. To ensure that the proceedings follow military family law, it is best for military couples to seek the services of an attorney who is familiar with the details of this particular law.

Division of Property

Alaska is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that property is divided in an equitable, or fair, fashion. This does not mean that it is necessarily equal, but rather fair. Factors weighed when determining how to divide property may include:

  • Whether or not the couple can decide about distribution of property on their own. Typically, their decisions are allowed by the courts if they can do so.
  • The needs of any children involved in the family. The custodial parent usually retains rights to more property, often including the right to the family home.
  • Income of the couple during the marriage, as well as their financial condition and the availability or cost of health insurance.
  • Length of the marriage and the couple’s stage of life during the marriage.
  • Earning capacity of both parties, including factors like work experiences, employment skills, education, training, custodial responsibilities for children, and length of time away from work.
  • The timing and manner of the purchase of the property in question.
  • Any circumstances or needs of either party will be considered. This might include factors like medical conditions, schooling expenses, or a lack of income earning capacity.
  • All types of property are considered, including debts the couple has taken on.

Child Custody

Determining child custody during an Alaska divorce is one of the most difficult aspects of the process. The goal of the courts is to do everything possible to lessen the emotional trauma the children go through. The parents are encouraged to work out custody arrangements on their own, but when they cannot agree, the court will strive to find the solution that is in the best interests of the child. The following factors will be considered:

  • The child’s social, religious, mental, emotional, and physical needs.
  • The ability and desire of each parent to meet those needs.
  • The child’s desires if the child is old enough to make such a choice.
  • The clear love and affection between the child and each parent.
  • The amount of time the child has had a stable home life, and the desire to continue this situation.
  • The parent’s willingness and ability to encourage ongoing contact between the child and the other parent.
  • Any evidence of child abuse, neglect, or violence in the household that is seeking custody, as well as any history of violence between parents.
  • Any abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence that could put the health or emotional safety of the child or other parent at risk.
  • Substance abuse problems by either parents or members of the household that will have a direct affect on the child.
  • Any other factors at the court’s discretion.

In most instances, the courts will seek a joint custody arrangement that gives one parent primary physical custody and the other the right for visitation and ability to make parenting decisions.


In most cases where joint custody is awarded, Alaska divorce laws require both parents to contribute to the child’s financial care needs. The state uses the Percentage of Income Formula, which figures support obligations based on a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent according to the number of children. Spousal support is not automatically awarded, but may be awarded based on the following factors:

  • Length of marriage and the stage of life of the parties.
  • Age and health of each individual.
  • Earning capacity.
  • Financial condition, including health insurance needs.
  • Conduct of parties in regards to use of funds before divorce. In other words, if one spouse intentionally depletes all resources prior to divorce, this will be considered.