DIVORCE IN HAWAII
Divorce can be a difficult and stressful process. You’ll find information and links on our site that may help you figure out your direction. The experienced Honolulu Divorce Attorneys at Doi/Luke, Islandlawyers have handled countless divorce cases over the last 25+ years.
If you have questions not covered here, see our Legal Information page, or give us a call at (808) 593-2199 and schedule a consult – we’ll be happy to speak with you.
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 below:
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.
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, which comprises the vast majority of all divorce filings). Previously, a spouse seeking a divorce needed to prove why they were entitled to a divorce (example: adultery, mental cruelty, or failure to support), where now a divorce may now proceed if one spouse asserts that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
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 and visitation
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 two spouses 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 a lawyer.
WHAT IS AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which the two spouses are in agreement over the terms and issues of the divorce. A reasonable agreement is generally the best course for all parties, if possible. This includes agreement over the child issues (custody and visitation , child support ), spousal support, and the division of property/debt. Under an uncontested divorce, both husband and wife sign a divorce decree stating the terms of the divorce. An uncontested divorce is generally a simple matter involving paperwork, with no court hearings. A lawyer’s role in an uncontested divorce is preparing the substantial amount of the Hawaii divorce forms, coordinating the 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” (HONOLULU AND KAPOLEI)?
Kids First is a Family Court program helping 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 Wednesdays. Since the Family Court has moved to Kapolei, the program is run twice a month at the Family Court in Kapolei, and twice a month at the Circuit Court in downtown Honolulu. The Kids First Program form and instructions are linked here.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST? WHAT ABOUT LAWYER FEES?
The price of a divorce, like other legal matters has 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;
transportation, such as airfare; and
various other expenses and costs
Fees refers to the charge for a lawyer’s work on a case. The fees in an uncontested divorce will almost always be less than that in a contested divorce, as it basically involves the preparation of divorce forms, and no hearings. As uncontested divorces are fairly simple matters, they can be relatively quick and inexpensive compared to a contested divorce. Lawyers will often charge a flat or fixed fee for an uncontested divorce. The lawyer 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, lawyers will charge for contested divorces at an hourly rate. In connection with an hourly charge, lawyers will usually request a deposit or retainer from the client. The lawyer will then draw their hourly charges from that retainer.
WHERE DO I START?
Here are some tips if you are starting your divorce.
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
recent tax returns (last 3 years)
other personal documents
CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED?
Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested is a very important factor. Experienced Honolulu divorce attorneys can help you figure out if your divorce is contested or not.
LOOK AT THE COURT RESOURCES IN HONOLULU AND OTHER ISLANDS
The Family Court staff are unable to give legal advice. However, the courthouses have legal information available, including all the divorce forms for people preparing their own documents. The First Circuit Family Court is located in the Kapolei Judiciary Complex in Kapolei, Hawaii (“First Circuit” covers all of the City and County of Honolulu) where they have courtrooms, clerks that accept and file your divorce documents, divorce forms, the Kids First II Program (every other week), and the Kapolei Access to Justice Room. The Kapolei Access to Justice Room has attorney volunteers to help individuals with legal issues. They are available on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. The First Circuit Court (Kaahumanu Hale) at 777 Punchbowl Street in downtown Honolulu has some Family Court resources available. This include clerks that will accept and file your documents, divorce forms, and the Kids First II Program.
Some (not all) of the Family Court divorce forms are online at the Hawaii Judiciary website – for the First Circuit (Honolulu), Second Circuit (Maui/Molokai/Lanai), Third Circuit (Big Island), and Fifth Circuit (Kauai). See our Honolulu Courthouse Information page for directions to Honolulu sites.
ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION FOR THE LAWYERS
Take a look at our handy Divorce Issues Checklist, which can help our experienced Honolulu divorce attorneys organize your thoughts and positions on the different issues in your divorce. It is helpful to work on one of our questionnaires prior to a consult, to assist in understanding your situation. We have three different Divorce Questionnaires, all in Adobe(R) Acrobat(R), or .pdf format:
• Divorce Questionnaire, no children
• Divorce Questionnaire, parties have minor children
• Divorce Questionnaire, parties have adult children
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. Annulments are not possible just because a marriage is short. The reasons for 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;
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;
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
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.
Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 580-21. As you might observe, very few people seeking annulment will meet the requirements set by the State. (The above list is pretty much the same in every state in the U.S.) Because of this, virtually everyone seeking an annulment ends up going the divorce route instead.
WHAT CAN LAWYERS AT DOI/LUKE DO FOR ME?
Speaking to an experienced family lawyer can help in a complicated divorce. Doi/Luke has friendly, experienced Honolulu divorce attorneys. Located in the Ala Moana area in Honolulu, we help people throughout the State of Hawaii. We are happy to sit down with you to talk about your rights and responsibilities in a divorce. This includes child custody/visitation, child support, alimony, property division, and other issues.
If you would like to talk to a Honolulu divorce lawyer with our office to set up a consult, please e-mail or call us at (808) 593-2199.