Getting divorced in Hawaii is similar to getting divorced in most other states. A divorce for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
Residency and Where to File
In order to file for divorce in Hawaii, the person filing must be a resident of Hawaii for at least three months before filing, and either you or your spouse must be a resident for at least six months before a final judgment can be entered. You will file in the Family Court in the county where you live, or the county where you and your spouse last lived together.
The most simple procedure is for an uncontested divorce. This is where you and your spouse can reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. You begin the divorce procedure by preparing a document called a Complaint for Divorce, along with various other supporting documents. For an uncontested divorce, one of these documents will be a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets (and your agreement regarding any children). These documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Hawaii, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce. There are no traditional fault-based grounds.
To get a no-fault divorce in Hawaii, you need to include one of the following statements in the Complaint for Divorce (most people use the first one):
- The marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken.
- The parties have lived separate and apart under a decree of separation from bed and board, the term of separation has expired, and no reconciliation has been effected.
- The parties have lived separate and apart for a period of 2 years or more under a decree of separate maintenance entered by a court of competent jurisdiction, and no reconciliation has been effected.
- The parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of 2 years or more, there is no reasonable likelihood that cohabitation will be resumed, it would not be harsh and oppressive to the defendant or contrary to the public interest to a divorce on this ground.
A divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. To divide property and debts, Hawaii courts will determine what is “equitable,” or fair, considering:
- the respective merits of the parties,
- the relative abilities of the parties,
- the condition in which each party will be left by the divorce,
- the burdens imposed upon either party for the benefit of the children of the parties,
- any concealment of, or failure to disclose, income or assets,
- any violation of a restraining order, and
- all other circumstances of the case.
Alimony in Hawaii
Alimony in Hawaii is called spousal support and maintenance. The court may not consider the fault of either party (such as adultery) in determining spousal support, but must consider:
- financial resources of the parties,
- ability of the party seeking support to meet his or her needs independently,
- duration of the marriage,
- standard of living established during the marriage,
- age of the parties,
- physical and emotional condition of the parties,
- usual occupation of the parties during the marriage,
- vocational skills and employability of the party seeking support and maintenance,
- needs of the parties,
- custodial and child support responsibilities,
- ability of the party from whom support is sought to meet his or her own needs while paying support and maintenance,
- other factors which measure the financial condition in which the parties will be left as the result of the divorce,
- probable duration of the need of the party seeking support and maintenance, and
- any other relevant factor.
Child Custody in Hawaii
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Any agreement you and your spouse reach concerning custody will probably be approved by the court as long as it isn’t contrary to the child’s best interest. The court may order sole custody or joint custody, but it basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made.
According to Hawaii child custody law, in making a determination regarding custody, the judge is to act in the best interest of the child, taking into account the following factors:
- the child’s wishes, if of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference,
- any court determination that family violence has been committed by a party,
- any history of sexual or physical abuse of a child by a parent,
- any history of neglect or emotional abuse of a child by a parent,
- the overall quality of the parent-child relationship,
- each party’s history of caregiving or parenting prior and subsequent to separation,
- each party’s cooperation in developing and implementing a plan to meet the child’s needs, interests, and schedule (unless family violence has occurred),
- the emotional, safety, educational, and physical health needs of the child,
- the child’s need for relationships with siblings,
- each party’s actions showing they allow the child to maintain family connections through family events and activities (unless family violence has occurred),
- each party’s actions showing that they separate the child’s needs from their needs,
- any evidence of past or current drug or alcohol abuse by a party,
- the mental health of each party,
- the areas and levels of conflict present within the family, and
- a party’s prior willful misuse of the protection from abuse process.
Child Support in Hawaii
A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by reference to the Hawaii child support guidelines.
In an uncontested divorce, the judge may waive a hearing and enter a Decree of Divorce based on the affidavits of the parties. If one of the parties denies under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge may continue the divorce case for 30 to 60 days and suggest to the parties that they seek marriage counseling.
LegalZoom’s Uncontested Online Divorce service is an inexpensive way to file for divorce if you and your spouse agree on most major issues. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney for advice or help filing for divorce through the LegalZoom personal legal plan.