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Legal Information: Hawaii

Hawaii Divorce

Laws current as of
January 11, 2024

This page has basic information about divorce in Hawaii. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Hawaii?

To file for divorce in Hawaii, you must live in Hawaii continuously for at least three months before filing for divorce.1

1 Haw. Stat. § 580-1(a)

What are the grounds for divorce in Hawaii?

For a judge to grant a divorce in Hawaii, the judge must find that at least one of the following reasons (grounds) for filing for divorce is true:

  1. The marriage is irretrievably broken (cannot be fixed);
  2. You and your spouse have lived separate and apart with a legal separation decree (“from bed and board”) for the time period the judge assigned, and at the end of that time, you and your spouse haven’t gotten back together (reconciled);
  3. The judge issued an alimony order while you and your spouse were still married, and after two years, you and your spouse haven’t gotten back together (reconciled); or
  4. You and your spouse have lived apart continuously for the two years before the divorce was filed, and the judge finds that:
  • it is unlikely you and your spouse will get back together (reconcile); and
  • granting a divorce in your situation is appropriate.1

1Haw. Stat. § 580-41

Can I get alimony/maintenance?

Alimony (also called spousal support or maintenance) is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. A judge in Hawaii may order alimony for a fixed period of time, or it can continue until the judge makes another order that ends the payments. If a judge orders alimony for a fixed period of time, the judge must consider how long it will take the spouse getting alimony to get the education and training necessary to support himself/herself.1

A judge in Hawaii must consider two sets of factors in order to determine if you should get alimony. First, the judge must consider your and your spouse’s:

  • arguments during court hearings;
  • ability to pay alimony;
  • separate finances after the divorce;
  • obligation to care for any children;2
  • money or property that was hidden or not disclosed to the judge; and
  • history of violating any restraining orders against the other person.1

Second, when you ask for alimony, the judge must also consider the following additional factors. . The judge will consider your spouse’s ability to meet his/her own needs while paying alimony. Additionally, the judge must consider your and your spouse’s:

  • financial resources;
  • marriage length;
  • “standard of living” while married. This is the way you and your spouse lived while married, considering things like what your expenses were and what kind of house you lived in;
  • age;
  • physical and emotional conditions;
  • jobs during the marriage;
  • needs;
  • current and future custody and child support responsibilities; and
  • financial situation after a case for alimony.1

If you are the party asking for alimony, the judge will also consider your:

  • ability to meet your own needs independently;
  • skills and employment opportunities; and
  • how long you may need alimony.1

1 Haw. Stat. § 580-47(a)
2Lewis v. Lewis, 728 P.2d 1362 (Haw 1988)

Can I leave Hawaii with my child, rack up debt, or sell/transfer assets after a divorce is filed?

When a person files a divorce complaint in court, an “automatic restraining order” goes into effect and it lasts throughout the divorce proceeding unless:

  • the parties agree otherwise; or
  • the judge makes an order that changes the terms of the automatic restraining order.1

The restrictions in the automatic order apply to the spouse who filed the divorce complaint immediately upon filing the complaint. It applies to the other spouse as soon as s/he is served with the summons and complaint.2

The automatic restraining order says that neither party can:

  • remove their child from the island where the child currently lives;
  • remove their child from the school that the child is currently attending;
  • rack up any debts that would put a burden on the credit of the other party, unless it’s a reasonable amount of debt that is necessary for:
    • living and business expenses;
    • a child’s educational expenses; or
    • reasonable fees and costs related to litigating the divorce case;
  • change the beneficiary of any life insurance policy, pension, or retirement plan, or pension or retirement investment account, unless:
    • the other spouse agreed to the change in writing; or
    • the judge ordered it;
  • cause the other party or a minor child to be removed from coverage under an existing insurance policy, including medical, dental, life, automobile, and disability insurance; and
  • sell, transfer, hide, remove, or in any way get rid of any property that belongs to either party, except if doing so is necessary because:
    • s/he has to pay reasonable living expenses or reasonable attorney’s fees and costs related to the divorce;
    • it is in the “ordinary and usual course of business” to do so – in other words, it’s something that the spouse has regularly done during the marriage;
    • the spouses agreed in writing that it is okay; or
    • it is required by the court.3

1 HRS § 580-10.5(a), (e)
2 HRS § 580-10.5(a), (a)(5)
3 HRS § 580-10.5(a)

What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Where can I find additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources may provide helpful information.

Hawaii State Judiciary provides the following resources:

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii has information on divorce and a brochure on divorce issues you might face if you or your spouse are in the military.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.

You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.