Divorce in Hawaii

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Hawaii courts will rule on divorce disputes when spouses cannot agree.

Hawaii courts will rule on divorce disputes when spouses cannot agree.

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Though many people go to Hawaii to get married, Hawaii laws, of course, also provide a process for divorce. To file for divorce in Hawaii, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months and in your county or island for at least three months. Once you qualify to file based on residency, you must file proper paperwork stating your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which is Hawaii’s no-fault ground, or reason, for divorce.

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Property Distribution

When it comes to splitting property between spouses, Hawaii is an "equitable distribution" state. This means the court can divide your property in a manner that is just and equitable, though not necessarily equal. The court considers several factors when dividing property, including the burdens placed upon each spouse for the children’s benefit, the spouses' circumstances after the divorce, the abilities and merits of each spouse, and any other circumstances the court finds relevant.

Custody

Hawaii courts decide custody as part of divorce, awarding physical custody -- where the children live -- and legal custody -- who makes important decisions for the child. Both physical and legal custody may be awarded as joint custody (both parents share custody) or sole custody (only one parent has custody). For example, a parent may get sole physical custody but joint legal custody, so the children would live with one parent but both parents make important decisions for the child, including where he goes to school. Hawaii courts award custody in the best interests of the child, considering factors such as which parent has been the child’s main caretaker. If you and your spouse dispute custody, your judge will usually require a social study before deciding a custody arrangement. Social studies vary by island.

Child Support

Hawaii calculates child support by considering the incomes of both parents, called the income shares model of child support. In Hawaii, the parent who does not receive custody -- or, if both parents have custody, the parent who makes more money -- will pay some amount of child support. Even a parent who does not have an income must pay at least $50 per month.

Alimony

Unlike child support, Hawaii courts do not follow a set formula for awarding alimony, or spousal support, and alimony is not automatically awarded in every case. Instead, judges consider factors including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s ability to be self-supportive, each spouse’s age and condition, and each spouse’s earning capacity. Hawaii courts do not consider misconduct, such as adultery, when making alimony decisions.