Divorce and Dissolution Information
A divorce will end a marriage, but must also resolve other important issues. If you and your spouse want to get a divorce, you must work out legal issues including:
- Who will get any property you own?
- Who will pay any debts?
- Who will have custody of any children?
- What rights to visit with children will be allowed?
- Who will pay child support and how much?
If you or your spouse live in Alaska, Alaska courts can end the marriage. You don’t have to show that either spouse caused the divorce. Instead, a court will end the marriage if one or both of the couple do not want to stay married. In Alaska, there are two options for ending a marriage: a dissolution or a divorce.
A dissolution is a simpler way to end a marriage if you and your spouse agree on everything. The husband and the wife must both sign the documents, and must file the dissolution papers together. A dissolution can be over and done more quickly than a divorce. You only have to go to court once. But if you feel confused or uncertain about anything in the dissolution papers, it is a very good idea to contact an attorney for help.
If you don’t agree on all of the things that have to be decided, you or your spouse can file a complaint for divorce. A divorce complaint asks the court to decide the issues in your case, including the division of property and debt, child custody and visitation rights, and the amount of child support. The other spouse will file an answer stating that spouse’s position on the issues in your case. You can read more about the three major issues (property division, child custody and child support) below. Because these issues can be complicated, you should very seriously consider contacting a lawyer for help in a divorce case.
If you and your spouse disagree about a lot of things, the divorce process can take longer -at least several months- and may involve going to court repeatedly. Often divorcing spouses eventually do work out an agreement about all the important issues, and file a settlement agreement. If you can’t agree, the court will conduct a divorce trial at which you and your spouse will be able to tell the court why you think you should have what you want. After the trial, the court will issue an order deciding all the disputed issues.
Instead of going through a divorce trial, you and your spouse can mediate your divorce. Mediation is an informal meeting between you and your spouse, usually with a neutral person to help you reach an agreement. Trials are expensive when the spouses hire attorneys, and mediation can save you a lot of money. Mediation lets you and your spouse figure out workable solutions for your family. You know your family situation better than the judge will. If you reach an agreement with a mediator, you still have to get a judge to sign off on it. You can hire a mediator yourself or you can ask the court to order mediation in your divorce case. The court has a free child custody mediation program for people who earn less than a certain amount of money.
The Family Law Self-Help Center can give you free information about court procedure and forms in divorce cases if you do not have an attorney. Call (907) 264-0851 or (866) 279-0851 Monday – Thursday from 7:30 am – 6 pm or visit the Family Law Self-Help Center website for forms and information. You can also contact the Alaska Bar Association to use their Lawyer Referral
Service. This service lists lawyers who will provide a half-hour consultation to callers for $125 or less. You can call the Lawyer Referral Service at 907-272-0352 or toll free in Alaska at 1-800-770-9999.
Private attorneys can cost more than $250 per hour, so you should always discuss fees with attorneys before deciding to hire one. You can also hire an attorney to do a specific task, but not your entire case. This kind of work is called “unbundled” legal services. You should talk with the attorney about what this limited service would cost. The Alaska Bar Association has a list of attorneys who offer unbundled legal services.