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Anchorage Family Law Blog

How divorcing spouses can protect themselves

Spouses in Alaska who are considering a divorce may not realize how expensive the entire process can be, and this goes beyond just the legal process. Many divorced spouses end up living like poor college students, but there are steps that they can take to prevent that.

Couples spend an average $15,000 to $20,000 on their divorces, and this may not even include at least one of them having to find a new residence. They may not realize that they may need to purchase new bedroom items, kitchen necessities, furniture and anything else they need to turn new residences into homes. The overall cost can be astronomical when alimony, child support, health insurance and taxes are included.

Kaley Cuoco and Ryan Sweeting settle their divorce

Alaska residents might have heard about the divorce of actress Kaley Cuoco and retired tennis player Ryan Sweeting. The couple was married for about two years, and they have no children together. After nine months of divorce negotiations, Cuoco and Sweeting officially parted ways on May 6. According to reports, Cuoco had to have a tattoo with her wedding date covered up while she was going through her divorce.

As part of the divorce settlement, Cuoco must pay $165,000 to Sweeting in two installments. There will be no ongoing spousal support payments, but Cuoco will also reimburse Sweeting for his attorney fees and an outstanding legal bill that he incurred. In total, Cuoco will pay Sweeting just under a $250,000 to settle the divorce.

Military divorce rates trending downward

Alaska residents may have heard about the declining divorce rate among members of the U.S. military. The decline has been slowly occurring, with 2015 marking the lowest rate in several years.

In 2015, the divorce rate among enlisted troops and officers was 3 percent compared to 3.1 percent in 2014. Some observers believe that the decline might be because there may be less stress amount military families.

How parental alienation can affect custody

While some Alaska couples are able to work together to parent their child following a divorce, other custody disputes do not go so smoothly. In some cases, a parent may make an accusation against the other parent, claiming that the other parent is abusive. There are high stakes when these types of claims are made. An innocent parent could potentially lose custody or the child could end up under the care of a parent who truly is abusive.

Determining whether a child's claim that a parent is abusive can be difficult. The concept of "parental alienation" is where a parent turns the child against the other parent through constant comments about the other parent's flaws. Children who become alienated tend to pull away from the other parent. They may even fail to hold positive thoughts about the other parent. If the alienation is extreme enough, the child could potentially make claims of child abuse against the other parent.

The relationship between divorce and the military

Each year in Alaska, a number of people serving in the military either file for divorce or respond to their spouses' petitions. Military service, while certainly laudable, is associated with a greater likelihood of getting divorced than is civilian life, for a variety of reasons.

People who serve in the military live within a culture that encourages them to mature much more quickly than does civilian culture. Military service members also sometimes marry at young ages, both because being married is encouraged and because the military gives added monetary and financial benefits to service members who are married. This may mean that some people who serve may get married at young ages when they may not have done so if they had not served.

Detailed parenting agreements can be important

Alaskan parents who plan on splitting may find it wise to implement in-depth parenting plans first. Clearly defining parenting responsibilities may prevent arguments and emotional baggage between the parents from affecting their children. Taking these critical steps could also make it easier for ex-couples to move on.

Devising parenting plans could identify potential problems with arrangements before they become official. The process might also help parents determine the best way to get over arguments when things change or it becomes necessary to make modifications. In some cases, arguments based on unverifiable verbal promises can be avoided entirely because the parenting plan and any modifications serve as a written history.

One Direction singer reaches temporary custody deal

Alaska music fans may be interested to learn that One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson has reached an agreement with his former girlfriend over the custody of their 1-month old son. The temporary deal was reportedly arranged just hours before a scheduled court hearing on the matter.

According to the agreement, Tomlinson has the right to see his child during the week but cannot have overnight visits. Media reports say the "Perfect" crooner hired lawyers after his ex-girlfriend, a stylist, said he could only have access to their son if he gave her money.

Military versus civilian divorce rates

Some Alaskan military couples may end up divorcing. Others may wonder whether the rates for divorce among military service member are higher or lower than those of the civilian population.

Researchers from UCLA and the Rand Corporation analyzed divorce rate data from the period of 1995 to 2002 to determine how the divorce rates for military couples compared to civilians. They divided the research into three phases in order to improve the accuracy of their results. In the first phase, they identified couples both within the military and outside of it that had similar characteristics. Then, the second phase involved the researchers looking at the divorce rates of military members while they were still serving. Finally, the researchers looked at the divorce rates for service members after they had left the military.

Retirement plans require special attention during divorce process

Financial advisers recommend that the details of retirement assets be thoroughly evaluated during high-asset divorces in Alaska and across the country. Both parties in the divorcing couple will need to make decisions about how to divide retirement funds and determine the extent of tax liabilities.

If one or both spouses possess qualified defined contribution plans, like a 401(k), then they could avoid taxes if the distributions from the account are immediately placed in new individual plans that qualify for tax protection. This action is commonly known as a rollover. However, if an ex-spouse chooses to take a cash distribution, then income tax and an early withdrawal penalty would be initiated.

Dealing with child support and debt

In Alaska, child support is intended to help a parent with the financial costs of raising a child or to help the state with the costs should the child end up in foster care. Around 69,000 parents and family have open cases for child support. Nearly 60 percent of those cases have past due payments.

Part of the problem is that child support can cause the non-custodial parent to go into debt. This potentially creates financial instability for that parent and prevents them from possibly being able to get themselves in a place where they can get back to paying the amount that they owe. This is more likely if non-custodial parents have numerous children. Additionally, the consequences for being unable or unwilling to pay child support include losing their driver's license, which can further perpetuate debt and financial instability.