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Navigating Your Divorce in the New Year

Believe it or not, divorce is quite common at the beginning of the new year. Whether you’ve been waiting for the holiday season to be over or have taken some time to reflect and have finally come to a decision, know that you’re not alone in feeling like it’s time to set a new path.

Before You File For Divorce

Filing for divorce can seem like a whirlwind of emotions, paperwork and uncertainty, but it’s important to take a deep breath and ensure you have everything you need before filing. In Hawaii, there are a few things that you should keep in mind before starting the divorce process.

  • Established Residency - In the State of Hawaii, either spouse must be living in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. Additionally, the person requesting the divorce must be residing in the circuit where the divorce is filed for at least three months. (The State of Hawaii has four circuits: O`ahu, Maui, Hawai`i and Kaua`i).

  • Length of the Process - Keep in mind that the entire divorce process, from filing to finalization, can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. It all depends on the cooperation of the spouses. While one may seek to make a seamless transition, the other may opt to make it as difficult as possible.

  • Grounds for Divorce - Hawaii is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the judge can grant a divorce without the couple proving responsibility for divorce. However, the judge will only approve the divorce if:

    • They find the marriage “irretrievably broken,” meaning that there is no chance of reconciliation.

    • The couple was legally separated for a time determined by the court, which has now ended.

    • Both spouses have lived separately for two or more years with no plans on repairing the marriage.

What If My Spouse Doesn’t Agree?

When there are disagreements between the spouses during the divorce process, it’s called a “contested divorce.” In contested divorces, the spouses need the court to decide on the issues at hand, which can lengthen the entire process. Often, the issues that courts need to settle for the spouses are:

  • Child Custody or Child Support - The State of Hawaii requires both parents to take part in supporting a child after the divorce has been finalized; however, the judge will determine what’s in the child’s best interest and decide accordingly. Using the state’s child support guidelines, the courts will determine how much a parent must pay based on each parent’s income, the child's needs and the amount of time spent with them.

  • Property/Assets - As an equitable division state, the Hawaii Family Courts will fairly divide the property acquired during the marriage. While not always a half-and-half split, the property will be divided in a way that puts each spouse on an even financial ground.

  • Alimony - If a spouse is in need of support financially and requests to receive alimony, the court may allow it if the other spouse can afford it. The amount is up to the discretion of the judge and is based on various factors.

How Can I Make the Divorce Process Easy?

We all wish the divorce process could be a fast, painless and straightforward undertaking. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to the cooperation of both parties to make that possible. In fact, while many people think of divorce as a long and drawn-out disagreement between two spouses, there are methods of achieving an amicable divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

When both spouses agree on everything within the divorce settlement, it’s called an “uncontested divorce.” These divorce processes, where each party gives their full cooperation, can take a fraction of the time than a contested divorce, where the court must hold hearings to make decisions on outstanding issues. Uncontested divorces are also much cheaper than contested divorces due to the shortened time frame and expenses.

Collaborative Divorce

Spouses can opt to settle their divorce via “collaborative divorce.” During a collaborative divorce, each party hires its own legal team whose purpose is to work together to reach a settlement. If a settlement can’t be achieved through a collaborative divorce, the legal teams withdraw, leaving each spouse to find other attorneys to take the divorce to court.

Mediation

If you know the other spouse may contest your divorce, you may benefit from mediation to settle any disputes before bringing them to court. Mediation enlists the help of a mediator, a neutral third party, to guide the spouses to agreements on their issues. The more agreements you can work out through mediation, the less a court will have to decide upon.

We “Wrote the Book!”

If you want more information on the insights and effects of the divorce process, read Divorce with Decency: The Complete How-To Handbook and Survivor’s Guide to the Legal, Emotional, Economic, and Social Issues. Written by Coates Frey Tanimoto & Gibson, AAL LLLC’s own Bradley A. Coates, the book includes recent research and statistics on how divorce affects spouses, children and society.

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce in the New Year, schedule a complimentary consultation with the Hawaii divorce attorneys at Coates Frey Tanimoto & Gibson, AAL LLLC. Call (808) 518-6376 or complete our simple contact form.
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