Alaska Alimony and Spousal Support

An overview of Alaska alimony laws and how judges determine support awards.

Alaska Alimony

The following information will provide you with valuable information if you’re dealing with a spousal support issue in Alaska.

Who is Entitled to Alimony in Alaska?

The official term for alimony in Alaska is spousal support, but the two are interchangeable.

Alaska courts award alimony when there is a significant income disparity between spouses, and one spouse demonstrates a need and the other has the financial capability to pay it.  In a marriage when both spouses earn a living, the court may decide to award limited support or no spousal support at all.

Alimony is not automatic, and a spouse must ask for it, ideally at the time divorce papers are filed with the court.  Requests and awards are gender neutral, meaning that a man or a woman can request support.

Types of Alimony in Alaska

In Alaska, you must ask for alimony in the Divorce Complaint.  If you don’t make a request for alimony at the beginning of the divorce process, you may lose your ability to receive it permanently.

You can request temporary support if you need financial assistance while your divorce is pending.  Temporary support (also known as pendente lite support) ensures that the lower-earning spouse can cover living expenses while waiting for the judge to issue a final judgment of divorce.

In addition to other paperwork you’ll file, you must also file a motion asking for “Interim Spousal Support.”

To request spousal support, file these forms:

  • Motion and Affidavit for Interim Orders – No Children, SHC-1105 Word | PDF
  • Financial Declaration, DR 250
  • Order on Interim Orders – No Children, SHC-1107 Word | PDF
  • If you are filing at the same time as your complaint to start the case, you also need to file a Notice of Motion, SHC-1630 Word | PDF

Or the following forms, depending on your situation.

  • Motion and Affidavit for Interim Orders – With Children, SHC-1100 Word | PDF
  • Financial Declaration, DR 250
  • Order on Interim Orders – With Children, SHC-1102 Word | PDF
  • If you are filing at the same time as your complaint to start the case, you also need to file a Notice of Motion, SHC-1630 Word | PDF

Temporary spousal support orders are also often referred to as pendente lite orders.  Temporary support also ends when a divorce is final.  The court may choose to award alimony after the fact, but that is not guaranteed.

Rehabilitation support provides the lower-earning spouse with financial support to give them sufficient time to gain the skills, education, or job training they will need to find gainful employment.

A spouse who receives rehabilitation support must have a specific employment goal and must describe to the court how the support will facilitate reaching that goal. This type of support usually only lasts for as long as it takes the spouse to complete their schooling or a training program to begin a new job.

Reorientation support may be awarded in situations when one spouse needs help adjusting to a one-income household and living on less money. Reorientation support is short-term, typically lasting one year or less.  It is commonly awarded when the couple’s marital property isn’t enough to meet both spouses’ financial needs after the divorce.

Permanent support is rare and only awarded when one spouse can’t be self-supporting due to age, physical or mental health issues, or other similar and permanent situations.  It is most likely to be awarded in long-term marriage only.

Spouses also have the option of crafting their own written agreement.  This sometimes is preferred when spouses are on amicable terms and want more control over how alimony is decided.  Judges still need to review and approve the agreement to make sure it is fair and just.

Read More:  Divorce Laws in Alaska

What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?

After a court confirms that support is needed and the other spouse has the means to pay, several factors are used to help determine the type and duration of an award.  There are no formulas to determine support.  Each case is determined individually, and courts have broad discretion as part of the decision process.

When calculating spousal support, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage.  Short-term marriages are less likely to result in spousal support awards.
  • Each spouse’s age and health
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Both spouses’ ability to earn, including their educational backgrounds, training, employment skills, work experiences, length of absence from the job market,
  • Custodial responsibilities for children during the marriage.
  • The financial situation of each spouse
  • The availability and cost of health insurance
  • The conduct of the parties, such as if either spouse unreasonably depleted marital assets, possibly through gambling, spending on another person while engaged in adultery, etc.
  • Marital property division awards in the divorce; and
  • Any other factor the court determines to be relevant

Spousal support can be paid in a lump sum, a division of property, or periodic payments.  Periodic alimony payments are the most common, and this usually takes place by wage garnishment taken directly from a paying spouse’s paycheck.

After alimony awards are made, the state of Alaska sends an income withholding order to the spouse’s employer.  Money is deducted and sent to the state’s processing center, which then distributes funds to the receiving spouse.

Read More:  Alaska Child Support Laws and FAQs

Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Alaska

Spousal support can be modified after the original order is issued if a spouse can demonstrate an ongoing and substantial material change in circumstances relative to the award.  For example, a paying spouse may incur a long-term drop in income or suffer from a long-term injury or permanent disability.

This could occur at any time unless the couple agreed, in writing, that neither will seek a modification of the spousal support award in court.

Support awards can end when the term of the agreement expires, if either spouse passes away or the receiving spouse remarries and no longer needs support.

Modifications are not automatic.  To start the process, you will need to file a Request to Modify Order or Decree Concerning Spousal Maintenance or Property Allocation, DR-735.  If you are the requesting spouse, the burden will be on you to prove that a modification is warranted.

If you’re a paying spouse seeking a modification, it’s essential to keep paying the current award until the hearing and judge’s determination orders otherwise.

Enforcing Alaska Spousal Support Awards

Some spouses do not pay support awards promptly as specified in the court document.  When this happens, they are in violation of a court order and can be subject to collection and enforcement actions by the receiving spouse and the court.

Failure to pay can result in additional income withholding to bring back payments current.  A judge may also issue fines, make the non-payor responsible for attorney fees, and in some cases, possible jail time.  Judges reserved jail time for rare cases only because it makes the payment process impossible to complete.

Judges may consider placing liens on property and bank accounts or restricting driver’s licenses, recreational (hunting and fishing), or professional licenses as well.

Courts often prefer alimony to be paid in a lump sum when possible to avoid the need for future enforcement actions.

Spousal Support and Taxes

Due to recent changes in Federal laws, the payer cannot deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments under a divorce or separation instrument executed after 2018. These payments are also not included as taxable income for recipients.

The same is true of alimony paid under a divorce or separation instrument executed before 2019 and modified after 2018 if the modification expressly states that the alimony isn’t deductible to the payor spouse or included in the income of the recipient spouse.

Taxpayers paying alimony under a divorce agreement executed before 2019 can deduct those payments from taxes when the following criteria are met:

  • The recipient must be a spouse or former spouse
  • There must be a written divorce or separation instrument
  • A spouse must pay alimony with cash payments (such as checks and money orders)
  • Maintenance does not continue after the recipient dies
  • The parties must live apart, residing in different households
  • The parties must file separate tax returns (they cannot file a joint return and claim the alimony deduction)
  • The court-ordered payment of alimony cannot state that payments are not deductible

Alaska Alimony FAQs

Is marital fault considered in Alaskan spousal support?

The state of Alaska does not consider marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that divorces considered “at-fault” due to cheating or infidelity, abuse, or other factors do not affect the calculation of alimony payments.

Can alimony be waived by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement?

Assuming there is a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, the court will honor the terms of that agreement. In other words, the prenuptial agreement will dictate the final support award in a divorce.

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