Every state has the right to determine how marital property ends up being divided once a couple decides to divorce.
Hawaii follows the rule known as “equitable distribution,” which means that unless the couple can agree to a split what the court considers fair, the judge is free to consider several different factors that could make the split between a couple’s assets far less than even.
One of those factors is whether or not a spouse has violated the law or exhibited “culpable behavior” that could have negatively affected the finances of the household or diminished the household’s marital assets.
One action that’s sure to get the judge’s attention is the dissipation of marital assets for illegal activity like drug use. Dissipation is typically defined as a spouse’s use of marital property in a way that’s purposeful and meant to deprive the other spouse of his or her fair share of the assets.
A common example is when one spouse empties the joint bank account and takes a paramour on an expensive vacation with the money, knowing the divorce is right around the corner and he or she would soon be forced to give up half of that money.
Drug use is also dissipation. If one spouse is an addict and the other is not, that’s an important point to bring to the judge’s attention. It’s also important to note if a lot of marital assets in the last year or so of the marriage went toward paying attorney fees, court fees, fines, or court-ordered rehabilitation due to the drug use.
The fact that so much money has been poured into one spouse’s addiction or used to benefit that spouse in some way may make the judge inclined to award more of the remaining marital assets to the other spouse.
Again, it’s important to remember that “equitable” doesn’t mean equal unless an equal distribution of the marital assets is fair. For more information on property division during a divorce, talk to a Hawaii attorney.
Source: FindLaw, “Hawaii Marital Property Laws,” accessed Sep. 15, 2017