Hawaii is a no fault divorce state, which means that it's enough to say the marriage is irretrievably broken. No personal matters about the marriage problems need to be stated in the divorce papers unless you need a court hearing on those issues. This also means that your spouse does not have to consent - you can get a divorce even if your spouse does not agree.
In order to file for divorce in Hawaii, you must be a resident of Hawaii, and in order to be actually granted a divorce, at least one spouse must be a resident of Hawaii for at least six months and at least one spouse must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months. This is a little confusing, because the Complaint for Divorce provided by the Family Court requires the filer to state that s/he has lived in Hawaii for six months, but it means that even if you just arrived, if you intend to stay, then you can file for divorce.
Members of the military who are stationed here but deployed or living elsewhere are usually considered Hawaii residents, although they may also be residents of another state for divorce purposes. Our office works with deployed military members during their deployment to obtain divorces and address custody and child support by using a combination of email, extranet, digital documents, and Skype, although old-fashioned mail is still needed for original signatures on court documents.
An uncontested divorce will be finalized about three to eight weeks after all documents are submitted to the court. On the other end of the spectrum, a contested divorce, with or without custody issues, can easily take over a year.
A divorce is uncontested when the parties agree on all terms and cooperate fully in signing papers; a contested divorce requires conferences, negotiations, and possibly court hearings. If your spouse has an attorney, we consider the divorce to be contested.
Preparation for divorce
As you consider or move into divorce, all aspects of debt and equity need to be evaluated.
Whether the divorce will be contested or uncontested, it is a good idea to begin preparing your financial matters beforehand, even before informing your spouse that you want a divorce or filing papers, because while a divorce decree divides your assets and debts between you, creditors, future lenders, and the IRS are not bound by the decree.
This does not mean hiding assets or moving joint assets into your name alone without your spouse's permission or knowledge - such actions will cause you problems in the courts and draw out the time and expense of divorce. It does mean that tax returns should not be signed without careful scrutiny, and the partner planning to divorce should ensure that the tax bill is indeed paid. The IRS may be able to hold you responsible for your spouse's tax debts from the marriage.
If your spouse may become vengeful or simply has bad spending habits, or if you are the one leaving the marital residence, opt out of pre-approved credit offers now by going to www.optoutprescreen.com. If you are no longer in the marital residence and these offers keep arriving, the former spouse will have easy access to credit in your name.
This is a good time to make sure, if possible, that your spouse does not expend large amounts of money on toys or other personal gratifications like expensive travel. That money will be lost to the marital estate. It is also helpful to gather all the paperwork you will need for the divorce and for your future life. Once divorce papers are filed, things may become contentious, and logic and preparation become difficult.
Gather the marital financial information - make copies of bank statements and other financial statements; make copies of IRS records; keep accurate records of your household's expenses.
If you have been served papers: Check your papers carefully as soon as you receive them. They contain deadlines that you must meet.
If you've been served papers and think you are willing to sign the proposed decree sent to you, but want to be cautious and have an attorney look it over for you, we can sit down with you, discuss your situation and the proposal, and give you advice on whether it's beneficial to you or not. We will do this on an hourly basis, with no retainer fee needed. Remember, once you sign & submit the decree, it's final.
If you do not agree with your spouse's statements in the papers, you will want to do your research and get advice as soon as possible. It is less efficient to go to an attorney just days before a hearing or deadline- deadlines for filing responses or getting exhibits to the other side may have been missed; it may be more difficult to get required documents together; it may simply be that you can't find the right person to represent you on such short notice and your options are now limited.
I know my spouse and I are going to disagree over the our property and money. How does the court divide things?
Hawaii is an equitable division state and uses the Partnership Model. Usually money that one person brings into the marriage is theirs to take out of the marriage (with exceptions), as are gifts and inheritances. Appreciation in that property, though, may be subject to division between the spouses, and the percentage of given to the spouse may vary. Assets acquired during the marriage with earnings generally belong equally to each spouse, regardless of how much each did or did not contribute to the acquisition or upkeep of the assets. Retirement is divided according to a formula. Of course, it is not that simple, but that's the basic framework.
How long will my divorce take?
It's impossible to answer that question. Each case is very different in that regard. One case may have business valuations, multiple properties and custody issues yet settle within a year. Another case may have one property and no children but take much longer. And many cases settle suddenly somewhere in the process. Divorce and custody settlements are so dependent on the individual goals and feelings of each party that you should be prepared for anything to happen - after you've prepared for the worst.