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Grounds for Divorce Under Hawaii Divorce Laws

Grounds for divorce are basically reasons that are recognized by the state as being sufficient to break up a marriage. Acceptable grounds for divorce in the State of Hawaii are as follows:

  1. The marriage is irretrievably broken
  2. The parties have lived separate and apart under a decree of separation from bed and board, the term of separation has expired, and no reconciliation has been effected
  3. The parties have lived separate and apart for a period of two or more years under a decree of separate maintenance and no reconciliation has been effected
  4. The parties have lived separate and apart for two or more continuous years immediately prior to filing of the action without reasonable likelihood of reconciliation, and it would not be harsh or oppressive to the defendant or against public policy to grant the plaintiff a divorce

Residency Requirements

Hawaii divorce laws stipulate that before you may file for a divorce in Hawaii, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months immediately prior to filing of the action. The action is filed in the court of the circuit where the party has resided for at least three months prior to the commencement of the action.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

Once you have established that you meet the requirements set out in the above two sections, you are ready to move on to learning some key terms. The party who files for divorce is called the Plaintiff and the other party, the one who gets served,  is called the Defendant. An action for divorce in the State of Hawaii is filed in the Family Court. The first action in the divorce process is a Complaint for Divorce, which marks the starting line. The court order that grants the divorce is called the Decree of Divorce.

Simplified Divorce Proceeding

You have no unresolved issues and both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In that case, you may file for a divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court may issue a divorce without requiring a hearing on the matter, so long as the other spouse does not contest.

You may file together or one spouse may file and the other one simply does nothing (and by “does nothing” we mean “does not contest”).

Legal Separation

Maybe you have considered divorce but it does not feel right. At the same time, you might feel like you have tried everything to fix the problem and nothing worked. If you feel like you are stuck between two equally unappealing options, you might be a good candidate for legal separation. In Hawaii, an alternative option to divorce is called separation from bed and board. This is a good way for a couple to take some time apart, to test the waters before deciding whether they want to get divorced or stay together.

Conciliation/Mediation

If you have filed for divorce on the grounds that your marriage is irretrievably broken but your spouse disagrees with you (or denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken), the court may put a hold on the proceedings for a period of thirty to sixty days and suggest that you seek counseling to resolve the matter.

Alimony

For those who do not work or whose income is not enough to meet their needs, the court may order alimony to be paid by the other spouse, as the court deems equitable and just. The alimony order may be for a fixed period of time or for an indefinite amount of time. The court will consider several factors in ordering alimony, including:

  • The financial resources of the parties
  • The ability of the party seeking support to meet his needs independently
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The age, physical and emotional health of both parties
  • The usual occupation of the parties during the marriage
  • The vocational skills and employability of the party seeking support
  • The needs of the parties
  • Custodial and child support responsibilities
  • The ability of the party paying support to meet his/her needs while also meeting the needs of the other spouse
  • Any other factor the court deems equitable and just

Distribution of Property

In Hawaii, the court will divide all property, whether community, joint, or separate as it deems just and equitable.

The court will determine what is just and equitable after consideration of the following factors:

  • The respective merits of the parties
  • The relative abilities of the parties
  • The condition in which each party will be left by the divorce
  • The burdens imposed upon either party for the benefit of any children of the marriage
  • All other circumstances of the case

Child Custody

The court may award custody to either party, based upon the best interests of the child. Factors the court will consider in awarding custody include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The wishes of the child
  • Any reports ordered by the court prepared by investigators or other professionals
  • The relevant testimony of anyone with insight as to the child’s best interests

Child Support

The court may order either or both spouses to pay child support, as it deems just and equitable. In order to determine what is just and equitable, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The respective merits of the parties
  • The relative abilities of the parties
  • The condition in which each party will be left by the divorce
  • The burdens imposed upon either party for the benefit of any children of the marriage
  • All other circumstances of the case

Hawaii has enacted child support guidelines, which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support to be paid. In determining the amount of child support to be paid, the court may also consider:

  • All earnings, income and resources of both parents
  • The earning potential, reasonable necessities, and borrowing capacity of each parent
  • The needs of the child
  • The amount of public assistance that would be paid under the full standard of need established by the department
  • The existence of other dependents of the obligor parent
  • Incentives to encourage both parents to workThe balance of the standard of living of each parent
  • Extreme and inequitable changes in either parent’s income due to custody arrangements

Name Change

Either spouse may request that their name be returned to a former or maiden name and the court shall include this name change in the decree of divorce.

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