Hawaii Divorce Basics

This article outlines the rules and procedures for getting a divorce in Hawaii.

Grounds for Divorce

Hawaii is a no-fault state, which means that a married person does not need a reason to file for divorce—it’s enough to just state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Another way that a couple may file for divorce is by showing the court that they have lived separately and apart and have not cohabited for two years.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

A person who files for divorce in Hawaii must have lived in Hawaii for at least three months. This includes military personnel who are stationed on military bases on the islands. At least one of the spouses must also live in Hawaii for six months before the divorce can be finalized.

There is no waiting period for a final judgment of divorce in Hawaii.

Property Division in Hawaii

Property division in Hawaii is based on the equitable division system, which means that property at divorce is divided equitably; the division must be fair but not necessarily equal. At divorce, if the spouses haven’t agreed on how to divide their property, the court divides any debts and assets that the couple may have acquired during the marriage between the spouses. Any property that the individuals had before being married will remain the separate property of the person who owns it.

Alimony

The court may order alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, to either of the parties in a divorce. Whether alimony is awarded, how much, and how long it lasts, depends on both parties’ income and earning abilities. Alimony may be paid in the form of monthly payments or a lump sum, and ends automatically once the spouse receiving support remarries.

Child Support

Child support guidelines for Hawaii can be found through the Hawaii State Judiciary website.  In addition to the guidelines, the court may look at each parent’s income, and any standard of living adjustments   (SOLA). SOLA allow for children to share in a parent’s increased income and is a multiple step process to calculate child support. SOLA income is the difference between the parent’s gross income and the base amount that a parent would need in order to be self-supporting. This base amount is based on the federal poverty guidelines. If a parent has other obligations or credits, such as support of other legal children or paying for medical insurance or childcare for the child, then the child support obligation may also be reduced.

If a parent is physically and mentally able to work, but chooses not to, the court can impute income up to the equivalent of thirty hours of weekly earnings at minimum wage. This means that if one parent chooses not to work, the other parent won’t necessarily be forced to pay more.

The court is not bound to follow the guidelines exactly in every situation. For example, if a parent’s monthly income is $20,000 and the hypothetical amount of support based on the guidelines is $5,000, but only $2,000 would meet the child’s reasonable needs, then that parent may request the court to reduce the amount to better reflect the child’s needs.    The judge would have discretion to lower that support amount in exceptional circumstances.  

Child Custody

Hawaii, along with many other states, evaluates the best interest of the child to determine physical and legal custody. The judge evaluates various factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent and the parents’ respective living situations, and decides what’s best for the child. There is no presumption that the mother or father would be the better caregiver for the child. There are many more factors that the court will consider as well.

However, if there is a history of domestic violence, there is a rebuttable presumption that it would not be in the best interest of the child to give the violent parent sole or joint custody. A rebuttable presumption means that the court will automatically presume that it is not in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of a parent who has been violent, but the parent whose rights are affected by this presumption may present evidence or witness testimony to show the court otherwise. It would then be up to the court to make the final decision.

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