Area of Law:
To begin a divorce proceeding in Hawaii, file a divorce petition with your island’s circuit court. The spouse filing the petition is the petitioner, and the other spouse is the respondent. In Hawaii, one spouse must be a resident of the island for at least three months prior to filing for divorce. In addition, at least one spouse must be a continuous resident of the state of Hawaii for at least six months. You can obtain a divorce petition by visiting the Hawaii Judiciary’s website http://www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/divorce/forms/divorce_forms.html. After the spouse files the divorce petition, the spouse must provide a copy to the other spouse.
Hawaii is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the spouses do not need to establish one spouse’s wrongdoing to be eligible to file for divorce. Instead, most spouses cite that the divorce is a result of irreconcilable differences. The Hawaii court requires that you pay a filing fee at the time you submit your divorce petition for filing. The filing fee varies in Hawaii according to whether or not you have children with your spouse. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive the cost. If the judge decides that you qualify for assistance, then you do not have to pay for your divorce. In Hawaii, the length of time that it will take for your divorce to become final depends on whether the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce means that both spouses agree to all issues, including child custody and the division of marital assets.
One issue that will arise during the divorce is the division of marital assets. Marital assets are property jointly held by both spouses and acquired during the marriage. Marital property does not include separate property. Separate property is property belonging to one spouse, owned either prior to marriage or acquired by gift or bequest during the marriage. The Hawaii court follows equitable distribution when determining how to divide marital assets in a divorce. However, equitable distribution does not mean that the court will divide martial property equally. In reality, equitable distribution allows the court to divide marital property in the way the court views as being just. When dividing marital property, the court considers several factors including the length of the marriage, and the property’s current use. In addition, the court distributes all marital debts as well.
If you and your spouse can agree about the division of the marital property, consider drafting a marital settlement agreement. In Hawaii, the court does not need to approve the marital settlement agreement for it to become effective. However, agreeing on settlement terms is often the hardest part of a divorce proceeding. Therefore, the court may recommend both spouses attend mediation to try to resolve any contested issues. For example, the court may refer the spouses to the Mediation Center of the Pacific to address unresolved issues in a way that satisfies both spouses.
If you have any questions regarding how to file for divorce, visit the Hawaii Judiciary's website http://www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/divorce/how_to_proceed.html for additional assistance.