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Alaska Marital Property Laws

Marital property refers to assets acquired during the marriage. Assets brought into the marriage are separate property. Whether a property is separate or community property becomes important twice during a married couple's existence.

One is when one spouse dies. If a spouse dies, the surviving spouse can receive an elective share of the decedent's probated estate and non-probate assets, including real property. Alaska probate and estate planning laws discuss the division of property after death. Spouses may create a community property trust to avoid probate issues.

Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

State marital property laws depend on how they treat separate and community property.

Nine states are community property states. These states divide marital property 50/50 during a divorce case. Unless the parties have a prenuptial or other agreement, courts in states like California total the value of the marital assets and divide everything in half.

The remaining states are common-law states. They use an equitable division system when dividing property. Family law judges consider things like:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Non-monetary contributions
  • Earning capacity and education of each spouse
  • Which spouse has primary physical custody of the children

Although all states practice no-fault divorce, during property division in equitable distribution states, fault in divorce, such as adultery or abuse, can affect the distribution.

Separate Property

Any property that belonged to a spouse before marriage remains their personal property. In all states, gifts, inheritances, and bequests are the spouse's separate property unless the spouse makes a gift to the marital property.

Most states divide marital debt according to how it affected the marital property. For instance, if a spouse ran up credit card debt buying clothes, they keep that debt. If the credit card debt helped enhance the value of the property, it becomes part of the marital property.

This article provides a brief overview of marital property laws in Alaska.

Alaska Marital Property Laws: At a Glance

Alaska is unusual in that it recognizes both equitable property and community property. (Community Property Act § 34.77.030) Alaska courts use an equitable property approach to property division unless the parties file a community property agreement. The couple must execute this agreement before or during the marriage, not after the divorce filing. In a community property marriage, courts split most possessions acquired during the marriage 50/50.

FindLaw's Divorce and Property section contains other articles and resources on community property.

Individual Property

In the state of Alaska, courts divide individual or separate property according to state statute. It includes the following:

  • Gift or bequest if made to one spouse and not both spouses
  • Property sold or purchased with the spouse's own money
  • Appreciation or income of the spouse's individual property
  • Any community property agreement or other writing that reclassifies the property as a spouse's individual property (AS § 34.77.060(b))
  • A claim by one spouse against the other spouse (AS § 34.77.140)
  • A personal injury recovery settlement

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, court rulings (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. FindLaw strives to provide the most current information available. Always consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) before making any legal decisions.

Get Legal Help With a Divorce

Divorce can be a complex, emotionally taxing process. A divorce attorney can help assess your case and distinguish between marital and separate property. You can contact an experienced Alaska divorce attorney if you would like legal assistance with a divorce.

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