When most spouses consider filing for divorce, the thought of a long and drawn out legal battle can be literally petrifying. With skyrocketing divorce rates across the nation, most people understand that “forever and always” does not necessarily mean “for life”. Unfortunately, some marriages simply are not meant to be. Divorce proceedings generally tend to be easier for couples who both realize that a marriage is doomed to fail.
TIP: Click here for the complete guide to filing for uncontested divorce.
When both couples agree that separation is the best answer in their situation, they may be able to file for an uncontested divorce in the State of Hawai`i. An uncontested divorce is a type of divorce in which both spouses mutually agree on the terms of the divorce. Where couples split amicably, it makes filing for a divorce much easier for both sides.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Hawai`i uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Hawai`i Defined
In the State of Hawai`i, an uncontested divorce is a type of divorce filing that allows the spouses to mutually agree on the terms of a divorce rather than asking a judge to rule on the terms of the divorce. In most uncontested divorces in Hawai`i, couples will never even see a judge.
All that couples must do to file an uncontested divorce is to fill out the proper paperwork and file it at the local courthouse. Once the spouses have made their court filings, a judge will review their paperwork. If the paperwork was properly executed, the judge will sign it and mail back confirmation of the divorce.
An uncontested divorce appeals to many couples because of the reduced hassle and spectacle. Everyone knows that on the islands, it’s a small world, and news of any drama spreads quickly. The process is also quicker and cheaper than having to appear in court and argue in front of a judge. It also removes any uncertainty from the process; it is often better to help decide the consequences of the divorce rather than leave everything in the hands of a judge who does not know you or your family.
Requirements for Seeking a Hawai`i Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Hawai`i, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Hawai`i divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement for seeking an uncontested divorce is the residency requirement. Hawai`i court jurisdictions require two tiers of residency requirements, state and local, to be met before a married couple can divorce. To meet the state residency requirement, you must have been living in the State of Hawai`i for at least six continuous months prior to filing for a divorce. As for the local requirements, each island has its own supplemental residency requirement. For example, if a couple wants to file for divorce in an O`ahu court, they must have lived on O`ahu for at least three months.
The other requirement for an uncontested divorce in Hawai`i is mutual agreement. It is better think of the mutual agreement requirement as a series of small requirements, as a couple seeking a divorce must agree on many different factors of their separation. Couples seeking a divorce must agree on all of the following items:
- The reason for seeking a divorce (also known as the “grounds” for divorce);
- Division of marital assets, property, and debts;
- Alimony payments (also referred to as spousal support);
- Tax deductions and exemptions; and
If the couple has children born of that marriage:
- Child custody and visitation (this includes deciding which parent the children will live with) and
- Child support (including an agreement on the costs of medical expenses and health insurance).
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Hawai`i
In Hawai`i, the family courts are responsible for resolving divorce proceedings. Each Hawai`i judicial circuit has its own family court where couples may file their divorce paperwork. For example, couples living on either Maui, Moloka`i or Lana`i, will file for divorce in the Second Circuit’s family court. You can find more information about the local family courts on the State of Hawai`i family court’s website1, or you could call your local courthouse to ask any questions about local filing procedures.
Once you have determined which court is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Obtain the required divorce paperwork, either online2 or from the courthouse;
- Discuss the divorce with your spouse and come to an agreement on the terms for the divorce;
- Compile necessary information, including your children’s medical information, to assist you in filing your paperwork;
- Pay the local divorce filing fee (if you cannot afford the court’s filing fee, the clerks working at the courthouse can help you work out a payment arrangement or a fee waiver);
- Deliver your paperwork to the courthouse and, if needed, deliver copies of the paperwork to your spouse;
- Wait--as discussed above, a judge will review your filing and send a return within four to six weeks.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.