Beginning the divorce process means thinking about property division as well. While some spouses may come to an agreement about who gets what, others may need to fight it out in court.
In Alaska, the law adopts an equitable distribution approach. This means that rather than dividing everything equally, the court decides on a division that would be most fair to both parties.
What property is subject to distribution
Before beginning distribution, the court may need to decide which assets are marital property and which are separate. The parties may choose to stipulate on this point. Generally, assets either spouse acquires during the marriage become joint assets, while those acquired before or after the marriage are separate. The status of an asset does not depend on which spouse holds the title. However, sometimes a separate asset can become joint. In other cases, it can be difficult to trace the source of a particular asset.
How equitable distribution works
When figuring out a fair distribution, judges typically consider several factors. The length of the marriage plays an important role. Other relevant considerations include the relative contributions of each spouse, relative financial situations and earning capacities, as well as whether one spouse acted deceptively or wastefully in handling marital assets. For example, a spouse who gambles away marital funds may end up receiving a proportionately smaller share of the joint assets.
Assets such as houses, cars or businesses may present additional challenges. The simplest method – selling the asset and dividing the proceeds – often presents practical difficulties. One or both spouses may prefer to get the asset itself. In such a situation, one spouse may choose to buy out the other or allow him or her another asset of equivalent value from the marital estate.
In a contested divorce, spouses may still arrive at a consensus on property by engaging in mediation or having their attorneys negotiate an agreement. A prenuptial agreement may also contain provisions concerning property divisions generally or in regard to specific assets. If no agreement is possible, the judge will hear the case and issue an order.