Divorce in Hawaii: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated March 20, 2024by Unbiased team

From filing to the costs associated and how you can protect your assets, this guide will take you through a divorce in Hawaii.


  • In Hawaii, as long as one spouse believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that the marriage cannot be fixed, either spouse can file for divorce.

  • Divorces in Hawaii can range from $1,200 to $150,000 depending on complexity.

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

  • 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, and 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 $1,200 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 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.

According to the Honolulu Family Law Office, for example, divorces can range from $1,200 to $150,000 depending on type and complexity.

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 without children is around $215, while the filing fee for a divorce with a child brings the amount up to around $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 lawyer's experience and reputation, the complexity of the case, and the amount of time and work involved. According to Thumbtack, the average hourly rate for a divorce attorney in Hawaii is $250. 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. According to Mediate.com, the average cost of mediation in Hawaii is $300 per hour, and HomeAdvisor reports that the average cost of a home appraisal in Hawaii is $500.

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

What are the requirements to file for divorce in Hawaii?

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

  • You or your spouse must have lived in 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.

How do you file for divorce in Hawaii?

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.

  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 must notify your spouse that you have filed for divorce and give them a copy of the divorce papers.

  4. Wait for your spouse's response: If your spouse wants to contest the divorce, he or she has 20 days to file an answer and counterclaim. 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 are assets split in a divorce in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, the process of dividing assets during a divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution. This means that the court aims to divide marital assets and debts fairly and reasonably, although not necessarily equally.

When making decisions about asset division, the court takes several factors into account:

  1. Duration of the Marriage: The length of time you’ve been married plays a role in determining how assets are split.

  2. Individual Circumstances: The court considers the age, health, income, and earning potential of each spouse.

  3. Contributions: Contributions made by each spouse to acquire, preserve, or enhance marital assets and debts are evaluated.

  4. Standard of Living: The lifestyle established during the marriage is taken into consideration.

  5. Needs and Obligations: The court looks at the financial needs and responsibilities of each spouse.

  6. Child Custody and Support: If there are children involved, their custody and support requirements are factored in.

  7. Tax Implications: The potential tax consequences of asset division are also weighed.

  8. Other Relevant Factors: Any additional relevant circumstances are considered.

Common assets and debts subject to division include:

  • Real Estate: This includes the marital home, vacation properties, and rental properties.

  • Personal Property: Items like furniture, appliances, jewelry, vehicles, and collectibles fall into this category.

  • Financial Accounts: Bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, and life insurance policies are divided.

  • Business Interests: Ownership, shares, or profits from a business or professional practice are assessed.

  • Debts: Mortgages, loans, credit card balances, and tax obligations are also part of the equation.

Remember that the rules and guidelines for asset division in Hawaii may differ from those in other states. It’s advisable to seek advice from a qualified attorney or financial advisor before making any decisions related to your divorce.

How does alimony work in Hawaii?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is not automatically granted in Hawaii. Instead, the court carefully considers various factors before deciding whether to award alimony to one of the spouses.

Here are the key points regarding alimony in Hawaii:

  1. Financial Resources and Needs: The court evaluates the financial situation and needs of each spouse. This includes assessing income, assets, and any financial hardships.

  2. Duration of the Marriage: The length of the marriage plays a role in determining alimony. Longer marriages may be more likely to result in alimony awards.

  3. Individual Circumstances: The court considers the age, health, education, and employability of each spouse. These factors help determine their ability to support themselves.

  4. Standard of Living: The lifestyle established during the marriage is taken into account. Alimony aims to maintain a reasonable standard of living for both parties.

  5. Paying Spouse’s Ability: The court assesses the paying spouse’s capacity to provide financial support. This includes their income, assets, and earning potential.

  6. Conduct During Marriage: The behavior of both spouses during the marriage may influence alimony decisions.

  7. Other Relevant Factors: Any additional relevant circumstances are considered.

The court can award alimony in different forms:

  • Temporary Alimony: Paid during the divorce process to meet the immediate needs of the receiving spouse. It typically ends when the divorce is finalized or when a permanent alimony order is issued.

  • Permanent Alimony: Continues after the divorce is finalized until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse or until the court modifies or terminates it. This is reserved for long-term marriages or cases where the receiving spouse has limited earning potential or special needs.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Paid for a limited period to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient through education, training, or employment. It ends when specific goals are achieved.

  • Lump-Sum Alimony: Paid in a single payment or a series of payments instead of monthly installments, often used to settle property division disputes or prevent future conflicts.

What happens to children during a divorce in Hawaii?

When it comes to child custody during a divorce in Hawaii, the court’s main focus is on what’s best for the child. Here are the key things to consider:

  1. The Child’s Voice: If the child is old enough and mature, their wishes are taken into account. After all, they’re the ones directly affected.

  2. Parental Preferences: The court also considers each parent's wishes - their input matters in shaping the custody arrangement.

  3. Relationships: How close the child is to each parent, siblings, and other significant people matters. These connections play a role in determining custody.

  4. Needs and Stability: The child’s physical and emotional needs are crucial. So is maintaining stability in their home, school, and community.

  5. Cooperation and History: The court looks at how well parents can work together and their past behavior during the marriage.

Types of Custody:

  • Legal Custody: This involves decision-making authority (like education and health care). It can be joint (both parents) or sole (one parent).

  • Physical Custody: This is about where the child lives day-to-day. It can be joint (shared time) or sole (one primary home).

  • Shared Custody: A mix of legal and physical custody, where both parents have equal rights and responsibilities.

  • Split Custody: Rarely used, where separate children live with each parent.

Remember, you and your spouse can create a parenting plan, which the court will usually approve if it’s in the child’s best interest.

How can you protect your finances during a divorce in Hawaii?

Divorce can be tough, especially when it comes to money matters. If you’re wondering how to safeguard your finances during this challenging time, consider these steps:

  1. Get Organized: Before proceeding with divorce, gather all your financial paperwork. Think tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement account details. Create a list of assets and debts – both the ones you shared during marriage and any separate ones.

  2. Explore Mediation: Instead of duking it out in court, consider mediation. It’s like having a referee – a neutral third party – who helps you and your soon-to-be-ex work through issues like property division, alimony, child custody, and support. It’s often quicker, less expensive, and less stressful than a courtroom battle.

  3. Social Security Savvy: If you’ve been hitched for a decade or more, listen up. You might qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. It’s like a financial safety net during retirement, especially if your ex earned more than you did. But there are rules to follow, so check the fine print.

  4. Seek Professional Guidance: Divorce can throw your financial world into a spin. Consider chatting with a financial advisor who specializes in divorce. They’ll help you navigate the changes and plan for what lies ahead.

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.


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.