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Legal Information: Hawaii


May 28, 2020

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)