Legal FAQs

These FAQs do not cover the entire divorce process, and should not be taken as legal advice. For more in-depth information, call to schedule a consultation with a lawyer, or visit the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Webpage.

What are the differences between a divorce and a dissolution?

Although both a divorce and a dissolution result in the end to a marriage, the processes for the two are very different. A divorce is legally ending a marriage where the two spouses do not agree on how to divide their property. This could be money, land, businesses, or other possessions. If there are minor children (children under 18) in the marriage, this also could mean that the two do not agree on the custody of their children. A dissolution is where the divorcing couple agrees on all issues before filing any paperwork with the court. Because the divorcing couple agrees on all issues, the dissolution process can be simpler.

What is mediation?

Mediation is “an informal way to resolve disagreements” in a divorce or custody case. It is an alternative to having a trial where a judge will make the decisions about your case. One of the main benefits of mediation is that the people make the decisions instead of the judge. It is often less stressful and less expensive than going to trial. In mediation, a person called a “mediator” will help to establish what issues are important to those involved, and how to best resolve them. A mediator does not have the power to make decisions for people, and will only help the two people come to a decision on their own.

A mediation can occur either before or after divorce paperwork is filed. If both people are able to reach agreement on all issues before divorce paperwork is filed, they can instead file for a dissolution.

How do I begin the divorce process?

The first step in a divorce or custody case is to file a “complaint”. This is not an actual complaint, but a document submitted to the court system. If you hire an attorney, they will prepare the complaint for you. If you are representing yourself, you can find forms for it on the Alaska Court System’s website.
An attorney can help you with the forms through unbundled legal services.

Should I hire an attorney?

Many people are able to navigate the divorce process without an attorney, but the procedure and law can be very complicated. The Alaska Court System’s website contains lots of useful information, but the divorce process can still be overwhelming to many. Every person’s situation will be different, and there is no simple answer to the question “should I hire an attorney.” But there is no cost to visiting the Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Webpage, and it can help you get your bearings on if hiring an attorney is the right decision for you.

How does the court decide custody?

For many parents, a major concern is the custody of their children. Like with most other issues, the best case-scenario is a parenting plan that both parents are satisfied with. A parenting plan is also called a custody order, and covers the topics of the parenting schedule, legal custody (how important decisions should be made for children), travel both out of sate and internationally, health insurance, child support, and financial matters (which parent claims the children on taxes, which one applies for PFDs, etc.)

Should the two parents be unable to agree on a parenting plan, the judge will hear arguments from both sides, and taking into account the well-being of the children, resolve the points of conflict found in the parenting plan. If one of the parents needs a custody order before the final hearing or trial, they can file a motion for an interim order.