Divorce in Hawaii: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated February 21, 2024by Unbiased team

From filing and records to costs and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Hawaii and help you make informed decisions.

Summary

  • There are two main grounds for divorce in Hawaii which you must have before you can be granted a divorce.

  • The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.

  • You must have lived separately and apart for two years or be legally separated to terminate your marriage in Hawaii.

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the different types of divorce in Hawaii?

Hawaii recognizes two types of divorce: uncontested and contested.

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A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.

The type of divorce you choose will affect how long and how much your divorce will cost.

  • Uncontested divorce

This is the simplest and fastest way to get a divorce in Hawaii.

An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse agree on all the issues related to your divorce, such as child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and debt allocation. You do not need to go to court or have a trial.

You need to file a joint petition for divorce and a marital settlement agreement with the court and wait for the judge to approve it.

An uncontested divorce can be completed in as little as two months and can cost as little as $500 in filing fees and court costs.

  • Contested divorce

This is the more complicated and expensive way to get a divorce in Hawaii.

A contested divorce means that you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues related to your divorce and need the court to decide for you.

You will need to file a complaint for divorce and serve it on your spouse. Your spouse will then file an answer and counterclaim. You will then go through a series of hearings, discovery, mediation, and possibly a trial to resolve your disputes.

A contested divorce can take anywhere from six months to several years and can cost thousands of dollars in attorney fees, filing fees, court costs, and other expenses.

How do you file for divorce in Hawaii?

To file for divorce in Hawaii, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You or your spouse must have been a resident of Hawaii for at least six months before filing for divorce.

  • You or your spouse must have lived on the island where you filed for divorce for at least three months before filing for divorce.

  • You must have a valid reason or ground for divorce. Hawaii is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you do not need to prove that your spouse did something wrong to end the marriage. You need to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no possibility of reconciliation.

The steps to file for divorce in Hawaii are:

  1. Fill out the appropriate forms for your type of divorce: You can find the forms online or at the family court clerk's office. You will need to fill out a petition for divorce, a summons, a matrimonial action information sheet, and other forms depending on your situation. If you have children, you will also need to fill out a child support guidelines worksheet, a parenting plan, and a child custody jurisdiction affidavit.

  2. File the forms with the court and pay the filing fee: The filing fee varies depending on the type of divorce and the island where you file. You can check the current fees on the Hawaii Judiciary website. You will also need to pay a sheriff's fee if you need to serve your spouse by mail or in person.

  3. Serve your spouse with the divorce papers: You need to notify your spouse that you have filed for divorce and give them a copy of the divorce papers. You can do this by mail, by personal service, or by publication if you cannot locate your spouse. You will need to file a proof of service with the court to show that you have completed this step.

  4. Wait for your spouse's response: Your spouse has 20 days to file an answer and counterclaim if they want to contest the divorce. If they do not respond, you can ask the court for a default judgment and proceed with an uncontested divorce.

  5. Complete the divorce process: Depending on your type of divorce, you may need to attend a hearing, a mediation, or a trial to finalize your divorce. You will also need to file a decree of divorce and other final documents with the court. The court will then issue a divorce certificate that officially ends your marriage.

How much does a divorce cost in Hawaii?

The cost of a divorce in Hawaii depends on several factors, such as the type of divorce, the complexity of the issues, the level of conflict, the involvement of attorneys, and the island where you file.

Here are some estimates of the average costs of a divorce in Hawaii:

  • Filing fees and court costs: These are the fees you pay to the court to start and end your divorce. They vary depending on the type of divorce and the island where you file. For example, the filing fee for an uncontested divorce on Oahu is $215, while the filing fee for a contested divorce on Maui is $265. You can check the current fees on the Hawaii Judiciary website.

  • Attorney fees: These are the fees you pay to a lawyer to represent you in your divorce. They vary depending on the experience and reputation of the lawyer, the complexity of the case, and the amount of time and work involved. The average hourly rate for a divorce attorney in Hawaii is $250, according to Thumbtack. The total attorney fees for a divorce can range from $1,500 to $15,000 or more, depending on the type and duration of the divorce.

  • Other expenses: These are the additional costs you may incur during your divorce, such as mediation fees, expert fees, appraisal fees, copying fees, postage fees, and travel expenses. They vary depending on the circumstances of your case and the services you need. The average cost of mediation in Hawaii is $300 per hour, according to Mediate.com. The average cost of a home appraisal in Hawaii is $500, according to HomeAdvisor.

How can I reduce the cost of a divorce?

To reduce the cost of your divorce, you can try to:

  • Choose an uncontested divorce if possible

  • Negotiate and compromise with your spouse on the issues

  • Use online or self-help resources to prepare and file your own divorce papers

  • Seek legal advice or representation only when necessary

  • Avoid unnecessary litigation and delays

How do you split assets in a divorce in Hawaii?

Hawaii is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will divide the marital assets and debts fairly and reasonably, but not necessarily equally.

The court will consider several factors, such as:

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The age, health, income, and earning potential of each spouse

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or improvement of the marital assets and debts

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The needs and obligations of each spouse

  • The custody and support of the children, if any

  • The tax consequences of the division

  • Any other relevant factors

The court will only divide the marital assets and debts, which are those acquired or incurred during the marriage, regardless of whose name they are in. The court will not divide the separate assets and debts, which are those owned or owed by either spouse before the marriage or those acquired or incurred by gift, inheritance, or agreement during the marriage.

Some of the common assets and debts that need to be divided in a divorce are:

  • Real estate, such as the marital home, vacation property, or rental property

  • Personal property, such as furniture, appliances, jewelry, vehicles, or collectibles

  • Financial accounts, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, or life insurance policies

  • Business interests, such as ownership, shares, or profits of a business or professional practice

  • Debts, such as mortgages, loans, credit cards, or taxes

The rules and guidelines for splitting assets and debts in divorce in Hawaii may differ from other states, so you should consult a qualified attorney or financial advisor before making any decisions regarding your divorce.

How does alimony work in Hawaii?

Alimony is not automatic in Hawaii.

The court will decide whether to award alimony based on several factors, such as:

  • The financial resources and needs of each spouse

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The age, health, education, and employability of each spouse

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The ability of the paying spouse to support themselves and the receiving spouse

  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage

  • Any other relevant factors

The court can award alimony in different forms, such as:

  • Temporary alimony: This is alimony that is paid during the divorce process to help the receiving spouse meet their immediate needs. It usually ends when the divorce is finalized or when a permanent alimony order is issued.

  • Permanent alimony: This is alimony that is paid after the divorce is finalized and continues until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse or until the court modifies or terminates it. It is usually reserved for long-term marriages or cases where the receiving spouse has limited earning potential or special needs.

  • Rehabilitative alimony: This is alimony that is paid for a limited period of time to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient by obtaining education, training, or employment. It usually ends when the receiving spouse reaches a certain goal or milestone.

  • Lump-sum alimony: This is alimony that is paid in a single payment or a series of payments instead of monthly installments. It is usually used to settle a property division dispute or to avoid future conflicts.

What happens to children during a divorce in Hawaii?

The court's main concern when deciding child custody is the best interest of the child.

The court will consider several factors, such as:

  • The wishes of the child, if they are old enough and mature enough to express them

  • The wishes of the parents

  • The relationship of the child with each parent, siblings, and other significant people

  • The physical and emotional needs of the child

  • The stability and continuity of the child's home, school, and community

  • The ability and willingness of each parent to cooperate and communicate with the other parent

  • The history of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by either parent

  • Any other relevant factors

The court can award different types of custody, such as:

  • Legal custody: This is the right and responsibility to make major decisions for the child, such as education, health care, religion, and extracurricular activities. The court can award joint legal custody, where both parents share this right and responsibility, or sole legal custody, where only one parent has this right and responsibility.

  • Physical custody: This is the right and responsibility to provide the child with a place to live and daily care. The court can award joint physical custody, where the child spends substantial and frequent time with both parents or sole physical custody, where the child lives primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other parent.

  • Shared custody: This is a combination of joint legal and joint physical custody, where both parents have equal or nearly equal rights and responsibilities for the child.

  • Split custody: This is a rare arrangement where each parent has sole physical custody of one or more children, and the children do not live together.

You and your spouse can agree on child custody in a parenting plan, which the court will usually approve if it is in the best interest of the child. If you cannot agree, the court will decide for you based on the factors above.

How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Hawaii

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances.

You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.

Here are some ways you can protect your money when going through a divorce:

  • Organize your finances: Before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.

  • Consider mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.

  • Think about Social Security: If you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.

  • Seek professional help: Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

Writers

Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.