How to File for Divorce in Hawaii

Learn about the process for getting divorced in Hawaii, including the reasons for divorce, how to file, and how much you’ll pay in court costs.

Every state has its own rules and procedures for divorce. Here's what you need to know about how to get a divorce in Hawaii.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Hawaii

As long as you follow the state's marriage license rules, you can get married in any state—even if you don't live there. The requirements for ending a marriage, though, are not as relaxed. Instead, you must meet a state's residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts.

To get a divorce in Hawaii, at least one spouse must live in the state for a minimum of six continuous months before filing. Additionally, before the Family Court can accept the case, the filing spouse must have lived in the county where the court is located for a minimum of three months immediately before filing. (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 580-1 (2021).)

The purpose of state residency requirements is to prevent one spouse from moving to another state (or county) to "shop" for a court or judge that will view the case more favorably for that spouse. Residency requirements also prevent one spouse from filing in a location far from the other just to make it more difficult (and expensive) for the other spouse to respond and participate.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Hawaii?

Hawaii is a "no-fault" divorce state—meaning that the courts don't require one spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you do not have to have your spouse's consent to end the marriage.

A Hawaii court will grant a divorce when:

  • it finds that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" (there's no chance that the spouses will reconcile)
  • the spouses were legally separated by court order and the period of separation has ended
  • the spouses have lived separate and apart for two or more years under a decree of separate maintenance, or
  • the spouses have lived separate and apart for two continuous years and there's no hope of reconciliation.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 580-41 (2021).)

How Do I Get a Divorce in Hawaii?

Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses can't agree and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.

Uncontested divorces are generally faster and less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court—all the judge must do is review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.

How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Hawaii

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, the next step is to file the required paperwork in the appropriate Family Court. Each island in Hawaii has its own forms you'll need to use to start your divorce—be sure to get the right forms for the island on which you will be filing. The State Judiciary also maintains a list of self-help resources for people representing themselves in Hawaii courts. Alternatively, you could use an online divorce service or hire a lawyer to help you prepare and file your divorce paperwork.

Divorce Filing Fees in Hawaii

Like most legal proceedings, you must pay court filing fees to begin your divorce. As of 2021 in Hawaii, you must pay an initial filing fee ($100), a surcharge ($65), and a computer system surcharge ($50)—$215 total. If you have minor children, you'll also need to pay a parent education surcharge of $50, making the total filing fee $265. If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can file the form Ex Parte Motion and Affidavit to Waive Filing Fees Under Hawai'i Revised Statutes Section 607-5(b). If the court grants your request to waive fees, you will not have to pay any court costs for your divorce.

Serving Your Spouse in Hawaii

Once you file the paperwork, you will need to provide copies of all the documents to ("serve") your spouse and submit proof of service to the court. You can ask a friend or family member to deliver the paperwork or hire a process server to do it for you. (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 580-3 (2021).) The court will not put your case on the court's schedule until you've completed service.

The non-filing spouse will file a "response" or "answer" to the complaint. Depending on the court's rules, the answer might include a statement that the non-filing spouse agrees with the statements in the complaint and that the divorce is uncontested.

Uncontested divorces in Hawaii usually take about two months to finalize after you've completed all your paperwork.

How to Get a Contested Divorce in Hawaii

If you have unresolved issues in your divorce, you'll need to file a complaint for divorce with your local court, along with the other required documents. Many of the documents you'll need for a contested divorce are the same as those required for an uncontested divorce, but pay close attention to the complaint—some Hawaii courts have different complaint forms for uncontested and contested divorces.

Although you can represent yourself in your divorce, many people involved in a contested divorce choose to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the court system and present their case to the court.

It can take up to a year and a half (or more, depending on the circumstances) to finalize a contested divorce in Hawaii.

What to Expect in a Hawaii Divorce

Unlike some states, Hawaii doesn't have a "waiting period" between when you file your divorce complaint and when the court can start processing it. Instead, a Hawaii court can begin processing your case as soon as the time has passed for your spouse to file an answer or response (usually 21 days).

Hawaii courts handle most uncontested divorces "by affidavit." This means that if all your forms are complete and you've followed all the necessary steps, the judge will issue your divorce decree without requiring a hearing. If the judge has any questions or concerns, you and your spouse might have to attend a hearing or submit more documents.

If you've filed a contested divorce, the court will set a time for an initial hearing to discuss your case. The court will also schedule hearings on any motions (requests) you or your spouse file, along with any other issues that need to be resolved. For example, you might have to attend hearings on property and debt division, child custody and child support, and spousal support.

Here are the issues you can expect a judge to address in a contested divorce:

Property Division in Hawaii

Hawaii is an equitable division state, which means the court will divide marital property fairly—but not necessarily equally. Courts in equitable division states consider both spouses to be equal owners of any property either spouse acquired during the marriage. Instead of a 50/50 split, Hawaii courts will attempt to divide property so that the spouses will be on equal financial footing after the divorce. (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 580-47 (2021).) The court will also determine whether either spouse is entitled to separate property.

Child Custody and Child Support in Hawaii

Like all states, Hawaii courts begin with a presumption that a child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. If possible, Hawaii judges will try to arrange for joint custody, but will evaluate what's in the best interests of the child to determine the exact nature of custody and visitation. (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 571-46 (2021).)

Hawaii requires both parents to support their children after divorce. Hawaii courts use the state's child support guidelines to evaluate how much support a parent must pay. The amount of child support depends primarily on each parent's income and resources, the child's needs, the number of children to be supported, and how much time each parent spends with the children. Additionally, a judge might "impute" income to parents who can earn more than they are currently making. (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 576D-7 (2021).)

Spousal Support in Hawaii

One of Hawaii's goals is to ensure that neither spouse faces poverty because of a divorce. If one spouse needs financial support and the other can provide it, the judge might order spousal support ("alimony"). There is no specific formula for judges to use to calculate spousal support. Instead, Hawaii judges consider various factors when deciding the amount, frequency, and duration of support. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-47 (2021).)

Hawaii judges reach decisions about these issues by holding hearings. If the spouses are able to reach an agreement about one or more of the issues while the case is pending, the judge will usually review the agreement and incorporate it into the court's final decision.

Mediation as a Divorce Alternative

Not all divorces need to be drawn out battles in the courtroom. Instead of hurrying to the courthouse to file for divorce when you have unresolved issues, mediation might be a less contentious and cheaper way to divorce.

Divorcing spouses can choose to mediate on their own with a private mediator. Some states' laws require divorcing spouses to attempt mediation while a divorce is pending in court. This is known as "court-ordered mediation." Generally, Hawaii courts encourage but do not require divorcing spouses to attempt mediation. It is possible that a judge court require mediation in a specific case, though. The Hawaii State Judiciary maintains an excellent mediation resource page on its website.

In mediation, both spouses meet with a trained and neutral third party called a "mediator." Mediation sessions are confidential, and each spouse will have the opportunity to list their issues and suggest resolutions. The mediator will not make any decisions in the case—rather, a mediator's job is to guide the negotiations in a way that will help the spouses settle their divorce without court intervention.

If you agree on some or all of the issues during the mediation, the mediator can draft a divorce settlement agreement for you to present to the court. Any remaining issues that you and your spouse can't agree on will be decided by the court. Even if you're able to agree on one or two issues, mediation is usually much less expensive than going through a complete divorce trial, and can help you and your spouse create a foundation for continuing communication after your divorce.

Finalizing a Divorce in Hawaii

There are two forms of divorce decrees in Hawaii: a Divorce Decree With Minor and/or Dependent Child(ren) and a Divorce Decree Without Minor and/or Dependent Child(ren).

A Hawaii divorce is final when the judge signs and the court enters a divorce decree. The date that the divorce decree is signed and entered is known as the "effective date" of your divorce—the day you become officially divorced.

Divorce decrees in Hawaii include detailed information about

  • alimony
  • division of bank and other financial accounts
  • division of vehicles and real property
  • division of any other assets
  • division of debts
  • any name change requested by either spouse (Hawaii courts will grant either spouse's request to revert their name back to the name used before the marriage)
  • legal and physical custody of the children (if any)
  • visitation (if any children), and
  • child support (if any children).

You'll receive an official copy of your divorce decree after it's signed by the judge and entered as an order. If you need an additional copy of your Hawaii divorce decree, you can contact the legal documents branch of the court that decided your divorce.

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