We’ve all heard the horror stories about divorce—the bitter arguments, the sky-high attorney fees, the endless court appearances, the traumatized children.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you and your spouse are able to be reasonable and compromise with each other, you can get what’s called an “uncontested divorce,” and you won’t even have to set foot in a courtroom.
This article will explain uncontested divorces in Hawaii. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
If you and your spouse agree on all the key issues in the divorce, you have the option to get an “uncontested divorce.” This means that you will be able to take your paperwork to the courthouse and leave it there for a judge to review, sign, and mail back to you. You don’t even have to go to court and talk to the judge. The process is quicker, cheaper, and more painless than having to go to court and argue about your disagreements in front of a judge. It also removes the element of uncertainty from divorce, because you and your spouse will make all the decisions instead of a judge who doesn’t know you or your family.
You can only get an uncontested divorce in Hawaii if you meet the residency requirements. You have to have been living in the State of Hawaii for at least six continuous months before filing for divorce. In addition, there are different judicial circuits for each island, and each circuit has a supplemental residency requirement. For example, if you want to get divorced in the First Circuit, you have to have been living in Oahu for at least three months before you file for divorce. On the other hand, once you file for divorce, there’s no waiting period.
The key to uncontested divorce is that you and your spouse must be in agreement about the terms and conditions of the divorce. You can get an uncontested divorce whether or not you have children.
You are not a candidate for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse can’t agree about any of the following items:
One of the most important things you’ll need to understand about getting divorced in Hawaii is how the Hawaiian courts work. The Hawaii Family Courts are responsible for all divorce proceedings. The family courts are divided into separate judicial circuits based on geographic location. You will be responsible for filing your paperwork in the correct circuit. Each circuit has slightly different forms, processes, and fee schedules. The family court is divided into the following circuits:
There is some variation depending on where you live and whether you have children, but generally speaking, the uncontested divorce process works like this:
Again, the process will vary slightly from circuit to circuit. But for the most part, the plaintiff starts the divorce by filling out the complaint and summons, as well as some supplemental documents, and taking them to the courthouse to be filed and stamped. The case number that’s stamped on the documents has to be included on all future documents.
Eventually, both sides will file and serve sworn documents that detail their income and expenses, their desired custody and parenting plans for the children (if applicable), and their assets and debts. Certain documents will have to be served on the other spouse. This means that the other spouse has to be given an official, file-stamped copy via an official means like U.S. Mail or personal service (for example, a process server physically handing over a copy).
There are very detailed instructions for how to obtain an uncontested divorce with and without children. The instructions vary by circuit. It’s critical that you obtain all the instructions and checklists and follow them precisely. Check Divorce Forms Divided by Circuit for the specific forms you may need.
Take your time and work carefully and methodically. Type everything on a computer if you can, but if you can’t, write or print neatly. Uncontested divorce only allows you to avoid going to court if you do everything right. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, the judge may have questions or concerns about your paperwork. If that happens, you and your spouse will be required to appear in court to explain, and your divorce will be delayed.
Remember also that the court clerks who help you in the courthouse can’t give you any information or legal advice about how to complete the forms. If you have questions, you’ll either need to research the answers on your own (seeHawaii Revised Statutes, Title 31, Family) or consult with a family lawyer or other pro bono organization such as theLegal Aid Society of Hawaii, LawHelp.org/HI or Legal Assistance, Hawaii State Bar Association.