DIVORCE IN HAWAII
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR A HAWAI’I DIVORCE?
Hawai’i divorce law provides for a “no-fault” process. Under a no-fault divorce in Hawai’i, a spouse seeking a divorce needs to state one of four possible grounds:
- the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- the parties have lived separate and apart under a decree of separation from bed and board, and the term of separation has expired, and there has been no reconciliation;
- the parties have lived separate and apart for two years or more under a decree of separate maintenance and there has been no reconciliation; or
- the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of two years or more immediately preceding the application for divorce, there is no likelihood that cohabitation will resume, and a divorce is otherwise appropriate.
As such, in order to get divorced, the law only requires that one spouse claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken (first of the grounds listed above). Previously, a spouse seeking a divorce needed to prove why they were entitled to a divorce, such as adultery or failure to support. Presently, the claim by one spouse that the marriage is irretrievably broken is enough for the divorce to proceed.
WHAT ELSE IS INVOLVED IN A DIVORCE?
Although the above discussion shows the minimum needed to obtain a divorce in Hawai’i, there are usually other issues involved. The most common issues are:
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Child support
- Alimony/spousal support
Division of property (both assets AND debts)
Even though the above listed issues are probably the most common ones, keep in mind that there may be others. A lawyer can discuss the other possible issues with you.
WHAT IS A CONTESTED DIVORCE?
A contested divorce is a divorce in which the husband and wife cannot agree as to one or more of the terms and issues of the divorce. Contested divorces often involve substantial amounts of documents and hearings. It is generally very difficult to represent oneself in a contested divorce action, particularly if the opposing side has an attorney.
WHAT IS AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
Basically speaking, an uncontested divorce is a divorce in which the husband and wife are in agreement over the terms and issues of the divorce. This would include agreement over the child issues (custody and visitation , child support ), the spousal support issues, and the division of property/debt. Under an uncontested divorce, both husband and wife would sign a divorce decree stating the terms of the divorce.An uncontested divorce is generally a simple matter, involving paperwork, and no court hearings. An attorney’s role in an uncontested divorce is preparing the substantial amount of documents, coordinating the needed signatures of the parties, filing the documents, and obtaining a Family Court Judge’s signature on the divorce decree. Individuals who are willing to commit the necessary time, effort, and attention are able to file their own divorce, as a “pro se” or unrepresented person.
WHAT IS “KIDS FIRST”?
Kids First is a program set up by the Family Court to help parents understand the impact of divorce upon children, and to help children in divorce deal with changes to their family. Parties who are divorcing that have children under the age of 18 must attend the program before their divorce can be granted. The program is a one-time session which runs from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and is held only on Wednesday evenings. Since the Family Court has moved to Kapolei, the program is runs twice a month at the Family Court in Kapolei, and twice a month at the Circuit Court on Punchbowl Street, in downtown. The Kids First Program form and instructions are linked here.
HOW MUCH DOES A DIVORCE COST?
The price of a divorce, like other legal matters, should be broken down into two parts, fees and costs.
Costs are items that are not attorney’s fees, such as photocopying, facsimiles, filing fees charged by the courts, postage, etc. The typical costs for filing an uncontested divorce usually include:
- filing fee for the divorce (goes to the State of Hawaii — $250 if the parties have children, $200 if they do not);
Costs for contested divorces may include, in addition to the above:
service of process fees to sheriffs or other individuals to serve papers on your spouse;
transcripts of hearings; and
various other expenses and costs
Fees refers to the charge for an attorney’s work on a case. The fees in an uncontested divorce will almost always be less than that in a contested divorce. As uncontested divorces are fairly simple matters, they can be relatively quick and inexpensive compared to a contested divorce. Attorneys will often charge a flat or fixed fee for an uncontested divorce. The attorney time and expense involved in a contested divorce varies greatly, depending on the number of issues in which the parties disagree, as well as how far apart the parties are in their disagreement. Generally, attorneys will charge for contested divorces at an hourly rate. In connection with an hourly charge, attorneys will usually request a deposit or retainer from the client. The attorney will then draw their hourly charges from that retainer.
WHERE DO I START?
If you have already decided that you need to start a divorce, here are some tips for getting started.
GATHER YOUR PAPERWORK
Moving forward with your divorce requires a lot of information from you. Try to locate the following documents:
pay stubs or pay statements, for both you and your spouse
bank account/credit union account statements
investment account statements
life insurance policy statements
real property deeds and other real property documents, such as appraisals and tax assessments
mortgage, credit card, and loan statements
wills or estate plans (these may need to be changed)
recent tax returns (last 3 years)
other personal documents
TRY TO DETERMINE IF YOUR DIVORCE WILL BE CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED
If you are able to discuss the divorce with your spouse, you should try to determine whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested. An UNCONTESTED divorce requires an agreement by both spouses on the divorce issues discussed above in the section “What Else Is Involved in a Divorce.”
ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION
Take a look at our handy Divorce Issues Checklist, which can help organize your thoughts and positions on the different issues in your divorce. Prior to scheduling a consultation, it is very helpful to work on one of our questionnaires, to assist us in understanding your situation. We have three different Divorce Questionnaires, all in Adobe(R) Acrobat(R), or .pdf format:
If you do not have Adobe Acrobat(R) or Adobe Acrobat Reader(R), you can go to the Adobe (R) website to get Adobe Acrobat Reader(R) for free.
WHAT IS ANNULMENT?
Annulment is a legal process that voids a marriage, essentially making it as if the marriage never happened. Although many people think that a short marriage can simply be annulled, the reasons upon which you can receive an annulment are few and very specific:
- That the parties stood in relation to each other of ancestor and descendant of any degree whatsoever, brother and sister of the half as well as the whole blood, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, whether the relationship is the result of the issue of parents married or not married to each other;
- That the parties, or either of them, had not attained the legal age of marriage;
- That the husband had an undivorced wife living, or the wife had an undivorced husband living;
- That one of the parties lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage;
- That consent to the marriage of the party applying for annulment was obtained by force, duress, or fraud, and there has been no subsequent cohabitation; and
- That one of the parties was a sufferer of or afflicted with any loathsome disease and the fact was concealed from, and unknown to, the party applying for annulment.
WHAT CAN DOI/LUKE DO FOR ME?
We are happy to sit down with you, to talk about your rights and responsibilities in a divorce, including child custody/visitation, child support, alimony, property division, and other issues.