Family Helping Family
Guiding You Through Every Step of the Process

What You Need to Know When Considering Legal Separation in Hawaii

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Family Law

Marriage can be a wonderful journey, but sometimes couples hit a rough patch and need time apart. Legal separation can be a viable option in these situations.

Legal separation can offer couples a structured way to live separately from each other while resolving important issues like child custody and finances. However, since Hawaii’s legal separation process differs from divorce, and is different from the process in other states as well, understanding its intricacies is important before committing to this approach.

Defining legal separation

Unlike some states where separation is a stepping stone to divorce, Hawaii treats legal separation as a distinct legal status. If you are considering this course of action, think of it as a legal pause on your marriage. Couples can address financial matters, child custody arrangements and spousal support through a court-approved separation agreement, and this agreement is legally binding and enforceable. Importantly, however, a legal separation does not dissolve the marriage. You remain married, but with established guidelines for living apart.

Reasons to consider legal separation

There are several reasons why couples might opt for legal separation. The most obvious reason is when a couple is considering divorce. Separation can be a trial period before making the final decision to end the marriage. It can allow you to assess if living apart strengthens your desire for reconciliation or confirms the need for divorce. Moreover, suppose you hold religious beliefs that discourage divorce. In that case, legal separation can offer a way to live apart while adhering to your religious convictions.

If you have minor children, a separation agreement can ensure stability and routine for your kids because it outlines child custody and visitation schedules. For divorcing parents, the wellbeing of the children is often the top priority, so this can be a big benefit.

The legal separation process in Hawaii

Legal separation in the Aloha State follows a similar process to that of divorce. You and your lawyer can initiate it by filing a petition for separation, usually within with the Circuit Court in the county where you reside.

A crucial element is the separation agreement, which details child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support (if applicable) and division of property and debts. Both spouses can negotiate the terms to help meet their unique needs. You can expect a court hearing where the court reviews the petition and separation agreement. A judge approves the agreement if everything is in order. This makes the separation legally binding for a period not to exceed two (2) years.

Legal separation offers a structured and legal approach to living apart while married. Carefully consider your reasons, research the process and seek legal counsel to determine if this option is right for you.