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Hawaii is one of the states with the lowest divorce rates in the U.S. In 2017, 10 per 1000 marriages ended in divorce, according to research by Bowling Green State University. 

Divorce can be caused by various factors, including financial incompatibility, infidelity, drug abuse, and domestic violence. 

Domestic violence continues to be a major public health issue. In the state, approximately 13% of the general population has experienced intimate partner violence, with women having a higher percentage than men. In fact, as many as 950 adult and child survivors were served on a single day when the National Network to End Domestic Violence performed a 24-hour survey.  

If you or your spouse intend to file for divorce, it is essential to understand the process. This article will go over various divorce topics. Divorce is difficult to deal with, and you should prepare because it might have a long-term impact on your life.

Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Hawaii 


The dissolution of a marriage between two spouses is referred to as divorce. After a divorce, the couple is no longer legally connected and can choose to be single again or marry someone else. 

To file for divorce, the court must determine that one of the four legal grounds is fulfilled:

  • The marriage is irreparably damaged.

  • There has been no reconciliation since the end of a separation decree in which both parties lived separately and apart.

  • There has been no reconciliation following a two-year separation maintenance decree in which the parties lived apart.

  • The parties had been separated for two years before filing for divorce, determining that divorce was the next logical step in their relationship.

Legal Separation

Legal separation only treats the marriage as "temporarily disrupted" and lasts for two years. After the allotted time, you and your spouse should decide whether or not to continue the marriage. In Hawaii, while separation isn't necessary to file for divorce, it can be used as one of the legal grounds for it. Specifically, one can file for divorce if they have been separated from their spouse for at least two years.


While a divorce cancels the legality of a marriage, an annulment treats marriage as if it never existed, voiding an existing marriage. Hawaii rarely grants an annulment because there are only a few legal grounds for it. An annulment can be granted if any of the following apply:

  • Both parties are related by blood.

  • Either of the two parties is not of legal age for marriage.

  • Either of the two parties has an undivorced living spouse (bigamy).

  • One of the parties lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage.

  • The marriage was coerced or secured under duress or via fraudulent means, and no subsequent cohabitation has occurred.

  • One of the parties has a loathsome disease concealed from the party seeking annulment.

Is Hawaii a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?

Yes. Hawaii is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that whether or not a spouse is at fault throughout the marriage has no bearing on the judge's judgment. Furthermore, you do not need to prove someone's fault as grounds for divorce. This applies to adultery, abandonment, abuse, or any other offense.

According to state law, the family court must only find that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" (also called irreconcilable differences) to end it. For example, you and your spouse initially have a happy marriage, but you start to disagree on many things, especially on life decisions (living expenses, children's education, what you want in the marriage, etc.). You and your spouse then try to reconcile but fail. In this case, your marriage may be deemed irretrievably broken.

It's vital to note that either partner has the right to file for divorce, so you can do so even if your spouse doesn't want one.

How to File for Divorce in Hawaii

When filing for divorce, it is important to proceed with caution. Various steps must be taken, so it is essential to understand relevant laws to avoid putting unnecessary strain on an already stressful situation. When it comes to residency requirements, the local government doesn't require you to live in the state for a certain time before filing for divorce. Instead, you and/or your spouse must be physically present or domiciled in Hawaii for at least six months in the circuit where you intend to file for divorce. 

Moreover, hiring a lawyer is beneficial, as they can discuss your legal rights and options, guide you throughout the divorce process, and ensure everything is in order.

Step 1: Fill Out and Submit the Required Forms to Family Court

In Hawaii, you need to fill out various forms when filing for divorce. There are four circuits in Hawaii, each having its own family court and divorce forms. You need to download documents based on where you want to file for divorce:

After you complete the necessary divorce documents, all divorces are filed at Family Court. You must additionally pay court filing fees of $215 for marriages without minor children and $265 for marriages with minor children. If you are unable to pay, you may file an Ex Parte Motion and Affidavit to Waive Filing Fees pursuant to Hawai'i Revised Statutes Section 607-5(b) and request that the court grant your petition. 

Step 2: Serve the Divorce Papers to the Other Party

After gathering the required divorce documents, you must give copies to the other party. The best case scenario is your spouse accepting the papers without issues, but sometimes this can't be achieved. What if your spouse is not in the state to accept the divorce papers? What if you can't give them the documents yourself? Fortunately, there are other ways of serving divorce forms:

  • If you can't see the papers in person, you may send them through certified or registered mail. 

  • You can ask someone to serve the papers in your place to your spouse. This person must be approved by the court. 

  • If your spouse refuses to accept the documents via mail or is in hiding/evading service, you can serve the papers by publishing them in the newspaper for three consecutive days. You should prove that you have researched their location for at least 15 days before or after filing the divorce.

Step 2.5: File for a Temporary Restraining Order (Optional)

You can obtain a temporary restraining order if your spouse has been abusive to you. It is a court order that directs the abuser to stay away from you. It also has the authority to grant temporary custody of any joint children. To obtain one, you must file a petition with the Family Court. 

If the judge believes you require a TRO, you will be given one for a period of six months. When the time limit expires, a hearing will be held to determine whether or not the order should be extended. 

Step 3: Attend the Required Classes and Conferences

Both spouses must attend a Kids First program to help them understand the effects of divorce on their children. If one fails to attend, it may influence child custody decisions.

Step 4: Wait for the Other Party to Respond

You must wait for the other party's decision after serving the divorce documents on them. The divorce will be contested or uncontested, depending on how they take action. If your spouse signs documentation declaring they agree with the divorce terms, the divorce will be uncontested. The divorce will then happen without either party going to court.

If your spouse does not agree with the conditions of the divorce, it will be contested. The divorce will then be settled in court or through mediation.

What if your spouse does not respond to the divorce documents? If they have not responded after 20 days, they have defaulted. The family court will then decide how to award your divorce terms.  

Step 5: Finalize the Divorce Process

The divorce procedure takes time and is based on the activities of both parties. If your divorce is uncontested, the court will review your documents in six to 10 weeks. You and your spouse don't need to attend hearings if there are no issues throughout the process. 

The court must enter a divorce decree before proceeding to the last stage of the process. The type of divorce order utilized is determined by whether you and your spouse have minor and/or dependent children (or not). Matters included in the divorce decree include child custody and support, property division, and alimony. The divorce is complete if the judge has approved, signed, and file-stamped the divorce decree. 

For a contested divorce, it will be finalized after the issues have been resolved.

How Property Is Divided in a Hawaii Divorce

Property division is one of the most challenging issues to resolve during a divorce. Assets (both before and after marriage) and debt (mortgages, loans, and card bills) can all be divided between couples. Depending on the circumstances, you may wind up with more or less property following the divorce. Notably, Hawaii is a common-law property state, not a community property state. As a result, property acquired during marriage does not automatically become the property of both couples. 

Hawaii is also an equitable distribution state, meaning all assets are equitably divided between spouses. To decide how the marital property is divided, either you and your spouse reach an agreement and get it approved, or the court will divide it based on the circumstances influencing the case. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the property will be divided 50/50 between the parties involved. Instead, property division is determined by the individual's contribution during the marriage. Various factors can affect the court's decision, such as:

  • The health and age of each spouse.

  • The employability and skills of each spouse.

  • Any effect the property division has on the children.

  • Each spouse's financial situation. 

  • Any negligent conduct, including breach of restraining orders and failing to report assets.

There is also property that is not included in the division (separate property). Inheritances and personal gifts are examples of property that can be excluded from the marital estate.

Hawaii Divorce FAQs

Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Hawaii

Volunteer Legal Services Hawai'i

Volunteer Legal Services Hawaiʻi is a nonprofit organization that has been providing legal solutions to low-income residents since 1981. Its members offer pro bono assistance and representation in various legal matters, such as family law, estate planning, bankruptcy, and district court matters. Clients can access its services and forms online. Moreover, it has Neighborhood Legal Clinics, which allow individuals to discuss their legal concerns with volunteer attorneys. It also has Hawaiʻi Online Pro Bono, an online legal clinic where people can ask legal questions. 

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Since 1950, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii has provided legal assistance to individuals as a nonprofit law firm. It has more than 100 members and 10 branches across the state. It offers legal assistance and representation to citizens from a variety of backgrounds, including those with special vulnerabilities, those without a home or in temporary accommodation, and victims of domestic violence. Its experts handle a range of legal issues, including elder law, divorce, and Social Security benefits. Its website also has forms for self-represented individuals. The organization can be reached at 1-800-368-1019 or 1-800-537-7697 for TDD users. 

Domestic Violence Action Center

The Domestic Violence Action Center is an organization that advocates for victims of domestic violence. Its members focus on treating survivors and their children with compassion and integrity through various tailored solutions, including legal representation, housing, social change work, and community education. DVAC assists residents in obtaining child support, pursuing educational aspirations, seeking financial support, and navigating military-related processes to improve the quality of their lives. In addition, it takes on high-risk divorce, paternity, temporary restraining orders, and post-decree cases in large numbers. 

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