lawyer showing divorce papers

Understanding Divorce in Hawaii

Hawaii may have the lowest divorce rate in the country, with only 1% of married couples getting divorced between 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately, that still equates to thousands of couples going through the divorce process each year. Because divorce proceedings are not federally regulated, each state follows its own guideline for child custody, property division, and most other factors that are considered during a divorce.

If you’re considering filing for divorce, it’s important to understand your rights as well as the importance of having a lawyer who specializes in Hawaii family law.

Getting a Divorce In Hawaii

Preparing for a Divorce

Because most people going through the divorce process are doing so for the first time, we often hear clients say, “I wish I had known that before I filed.” Family law is much more complicated than many people realize, however, there are a few things you should know right away:

  • Get a better understanding of the money and assets you own. It’s important to know more than just if you have stocks, investments, or a joint account. You should look into how much is in each account and where investments are being made.
  • A divorce is the first step towards your new life. Many people spend so much time focusing on the divorce that once it’s over, they’re left unprepared. Before your divorce is finalized, you should have a plan in place for where you’ll live, what car you’ll drive, and where your children will stay.
  • A support system is key. Most people expect to be married forever after they say “I do.” Even if you were the one who originally filed, divorces can be emotionally taxing.

Hawaii is an Equitable Distribution State

In the event of a divorce, property and other assets are equitably divided between spouses, meaning in a way that is fair. It’s important to note that fair does not mean an even 50/50 split on all assets.

When determining how assets should be distributed, courts look at dozens of factors, such as the earning contributions of each spouse, if one spouse stayed at home to raise the children, and the earning potential of each.

Dividing Property and Assets

As an equitable division state, most assets and debts acquired during the marriage are subject to division between the spouses, regardless of which spouse acquired it or whose name is on it. For example, if only one spouse’s name is on the mortgage, the family home will still likely be divided between both parties, so long as it was purchased while the two were married.

There are a few exceptions, however. Gifts or inheritances received by one spouse during the time of the marriage may not be divided. In regards to debt, courts may also decide that one party is more responsible for certain debts. Take, for example, a husband who secretly opens a credit card and spends frivolously. If the spending was done without his wife’s knowledge and did not benefit the marriage, courts may decide he is solely responsible for paying back the debt.

Military Divorces

One party’s profession rarely has a significant impact on a divorce proceeding, except in the case of military personnel. Most often, military divorces are between one civilian and one active duty member.

If you or your spouse are active duty military, it’s important to note that:

  • The nature of military service could prolong your divorce. If your partner is currently stationed overseas, it may be difficult to make regular contact, therefore prolonging the divorce.
  • The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) states that no part of a military member’s retirement will be distributed to a spouse unless the two have been married for 10 years or longer while they or their spouse was active duty.
  • Child support payments may be altered. Hawaii courts utilize the same guidelines as civilian divorces. However, Hawaii also has a rule that both child support and spousal support (if applicable) can not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances.
  • If you’re a civilian, you may still be able to keep certain military benefits after getting a divorce. The USFSPA also states that former spouses can receive medical, commissary, exchange, and theater privileges so long as they meet certain requirements.

To schedule a complimentary initial consultation with our Honolulu family law attorneys, call (808) 518-6376 or complete our simple contact form.

Whatever it is you’re facing, we’re armed with the relevant legal knowledge and courtroom experience to help you from start to finish.