Uncontested Divorce in Hawaii

Learn how you can get a quick and easy uncontested divorce in Hawaii.

By , Retired Judge

Divorce is stressful. There's really no way around that. But you and your spouse do have some control over how much anxiety, money, and time your divorce will take. If the two of your can agree on the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you could qualify to file for an uncontested divorce in Hawaii—which will make the process much easier and quicker.

Qualifying for an Uncontested Divorce in Hawaii

If you want to file for an uncontested divorce, you have to meet three basic requirements: residency, agreement on the legal reason ("ground") for your divorce, and agreement on the other issues in your case.

Hawaii's Residency Requirement for Divorce

In order to get any divorce in Hawaii, you generally need to have your "domicile" on the island that's in the family circuit court where you'll file the divorce papers. (A domicile is the place you consider to be your permanent home.) But you can also meet the residency requirement if you're living on a military or federal base or reservation in the state, or you're there on military orders.

Even if neither you nor your spouse meets the residency requirement, you may still file for divorce in Hawaii if you were married in the state and both of you currently live in a place that won't recognize your marriage. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-1 (2024).)

Agreeing on the Grounds for Divorce

Hawaii is strictly a no-fault divorce state. To get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to agree that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." Basically, that means the two of you can't get along, and there's no reasonable chance that you'll get back together. If one of you doesn't agree, a judge will have to hold a hearing and consider evidence before deciding whether your marriage is indeed broken beyond repair—and that means you won't qualify for an uncontested divorce.

Hawaii also allows divorces based on the fact that the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least two continuous years just before filing for divorce. But unless you had a legal separation decree, a judge would need to hold a hearing to determine if you were indeed living apart the entire time, whether there's no reasonable likelihood that you'll get back together, and if granting the divorce would be "harsh and oppressive" or against the public interest. So here again, you wouldn't be able to get an uncontested divorce based simply on living apart. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 580-41, 580-42 (2024).)

Agreeing on the Issues in Your Hawaii Divorce

Before you file for an uncontested divorce in Hawaii, you and your spouse will need to reach an agreement on all the issues in your case, including:

  • how to equitably divide your property from the marriage (both real estate and personal property)
  • how to allocate outstanding debts
  • whether either spouse will pay alimony and, if so, how much
  • child support for any dependent children of the marriage, including the responsibility for health insurance as well as medical and dental expenses, and
  • child custody and visitation.

If you need some help working out these issues, you may want to consider mediation. Certified divorce mediators are specially trained, and they can be a great help in finding solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects the agreement you've reached during the process, and some will even prepare a formal written marital settlement agreement that can be incorporated in your divorce judgment.

Preparing the Uncontested Divorce Forms

The Hawaii courts provide online packets of basic divorce forms you can download, along with instructions. There are also interactive forms for certain situations, such as a divorce without children. The process takes you through a step-by-step online interview that will prepare the appropriate forms for you. Check to see whether this resource includes forms for your island, since the appropriate forms may differ depending on where you live.

The divorce complaint is the most significant of the documents you'll need to prepare and file with the court. The form will tell the court that your case is uncontested, as well as how you qualify for the divorce (residency and grounds) and what relief you're seeking (like child support and so on).

If you'd rather avoid searching for and filling out the forms yourself, or if the interactive forms don't fit your situation, you can file for divorce online with a service that will walk you through a questionnaire and provide you with the completed forms.

Filing and Serving Your Uncontested Divorce Paperwork

Once your divorce papers are prepared, you'll need to file them with the local family circuit court. You can do this in person at the court clerk's office, or you can file the forms through Hawaii's electronic filing system.

Be aware that there's a charge for filing legal documents with the court. As of 2024 (but always subject to change), the Family Court filing fees are $215 for divorce without children, and $265 for divorce with minor children. If you can't afford to pay the fees, you can ask the court to waive them by filing a Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. If you meet the requirements and the court approves your request, you won't have to pay any court fees during the divorce.

When your documents are filed, you'll get a stamped copy from the clerk. You must then serve your spouse with the divorce papers, using one of the approved methods. When you're cooperating on an uncontested divorce, the easiest (and most common) method is to have your spouse sign an Appearance and Waiver and simply give your spouse the copy of the paperwork you filed. You'll then file the waiver form with the court. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-3 (2024).)

Hawaii's Parenting Education Courses

In any court proceeding involving custody or visitation, a judge may order you to attend counseling or parenting classes. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 571-46.2 (2024).)

A number of the court districts in Hawaii mandate participating in the Kids First Program or similar educational seminars. The purpose is to educate families about the impact of divorce and separation on children, and to promote peaceful co-parenting and effective family relationships and communication.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Hawaii?

Unlike many other states, Hawaii doesn't require a mandatory waiting period before you can finalize your divorce. Also, when you've agreed to file for divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, the judge may waive the need for a final hearing and instead grant the divorce based on the facts in your signed affidavit (sworn written statement). (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-42(a) (2024).)

All of this speeds up the process, which means that you can conceivably get your uncontested divorce judgment within a month or two after you filed your initial paperwork. Because a judge will have to be available to review your paperwork, the actual time frame depends largely on the court's caseload in your judicial circuit.

How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost in Hawaii?

As a rule, an uncontested divorce is considerably cheaper than a traditional contested divorce. That's because many couples can go through the uncontested divorce process without hiring a lawyer, which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.

The minimum expense involved in filing an uncontested divorce is the court's filing fee (unless, of course, you're able to get that waived). Other than the filing fee, your costs will depend on whether you represent yourself or you need some outside help with the process.

  • Online divorce services typically charge between $150 and $500 for providing and completing the divorce forms and settlement agreement.
  • If you need help in reaching a settlement, the cost of divorce mediation can vary widely, depending on how many issues need to be resolved and how complex they are. Mediation costs generally range from $3,000 to $8,000, with the spouses splitting that expense.
  • If you're dividing one or more retirement accounts (such as a 401(k) or pension), you're probably going to pay a few hundred dollars to have an expert prepare the necessary special court order known as a "qualified domestic relations order" (QDRO). These experts are usually actuaries or attorneys who specialize in this area.

Although you may not have used an attorney to negotiate your settlement talks, you should consider having a lawyer review your agreement to be sure it's fair and protects your rights. Once a settlement agreement is signed and becomes a part of your divorce judgment, it won't be easy to change it if you discover down the road that you made a mistake.

In some cases, especially those involving complex financial matters, it might make sense to have a lawyer or other expert draft the agreement. The cost will depend on the lawyer's hourly rate and the amount of time involved, but it should be much less than paying an attorney to handle all the legal matters in your divorce.