As soon as individuals marry, they begin to acquire assets. Many purchase their first home, buy vehicles, and start investing in retirement accounts. Unfortunately, for a wide variety of reasons, marriages simply don’t work out.

Whether a relationship dissolves after one year or two decades, couples who have decided to divorce often have the same questions and concerns. One of the biggest questions asked is: Who gets the property?

 

Asset division in Alaska: fair and equitable

People often believe that marital assets are assessed for value and simply split in equal shares between each party in a divorce.

This is a myth; the state of Alaska uses what’s known as equitable distribution when dividing assets. This means that instead of dividing marital assets equally between the parties, a family law judge will distribute assets fairly and will base the distribution on a couple’s individual circumstances.

The top four factors

Judges often look at a long list of factors when determining how to divide assets fairly. However, judges almost always examine the following:

  1. Each party’s earning capacity: A judge will examine each party’s current employment, employment prospect post-divorce, their education and training as well as a party’s length of absence from the job market during the marriage.
  2. The length of the marriage: A judge will always examine how long a couple has been married. A marriage that lasted less than a year will be scrutinized differently than a couple who opts to divorce after 20 years of marriage.
  3. Each party’s health: A judge will often look at each party’s health and wellbeing when allocating assets. For example, a judge will scrutinize the distribution for an individual who needs specific medical care and treatment differently than a divorcing couple who are both in good health.  
  4. A party’s unreasonable depletion of assets: If a divorce is pending, a judge will take into account a party’s activity regarding the couple’s joint finances, such as draining a bank account or selling a family heirloom.

Although this list is by no means comprehensive, the above are common factors courts in Alaska will use to determine asset distribution in a divorce. Judges will use other factors if, for instance, a party is an active service member or owns a family business.