Hawaii Divorce Guide

Hawaii Divorce Guide

If you’re going through a divorce in Hawaii, you need to understand laws, processes and your responsibilities to ensure your rights are protected and your case goes as smoothly as possible.

All divorces are unique, but there are several things within the Hawaiian divorce framework that are the same. Here’s what you should know.

What Are the grounds for divorce in Hawaii?

You must meet residency requirements for Hawaii before you can file for divorce. This requires that you have lived in the state for at least six months continuously prior to filing. You must also have lived in the circuit court’s jurisdiction where you file for a minimum of three months.

Hawaii is a no-fault state. This means that all you must do is cite that your marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown with no chance for reconciliation. Both parties must agree to this condition for the court to grant the divorce.

If one party challenges the assumption, then the court may delay finalizing the divorce for up to 60 days to see if the parties can work things out. At the end of this period, if no reconciliation has taken place, then the judge will grant the divorce.

You can also request a divorce if you have lived apart from each other continuously for two years or more and you both agree there is no chance for getting back together.

What is a Legal Separation vs. a Divorce?

Legal Separation vs a Divorce

In Hawaii, legal separation is similar to divorce because it allows a couple to figure out how to best resolve assets, child custody, alimony support and other major concerns.

Couples sometimes choose legal separation instead of divorce to take a “time out” in their marriage and see if they can work things out.

During this time, the couple lives physically apart and the legal separation can last for up to two years. The couple remains married in what is known as a bed and board decree.

Legal separation creates a legally binding agreement, and often things like a division of assets, child custody and alimony are figured out.

If spouses can’t reconcile during their time apart, then they can divorce. Either spouse can also file for divorce if the bed and board decree is in effect.

Couples may choose legal separation for religious reasons, because divorce may be a conflict depending on their spiritual beliefs. At other times, legal separation may be a way to let a spouse keep health insurance and can provide tax benefits that only married couples can enjoy.

If a noncitizen gets a divorce, they may be deported. But with a legal separation, they can stay in the country even if they don’t continue to live with their spouse.

What is an annulment and how does it differ from a divorce?

An annulment is an equivalent as if a marriage never happened. The marriage is declared void. Annulments in Hawaii are rare but may be granted when certain grounds are met under state law, including:

  • Incestuous marriage, when the couple is related to each other as ancestor or descendant of any degree, including half-brothers and half-sisters, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew
  • Underage marriage, when one or both spouses had been underage at the time of marriage
  • Bigamous marriage, when either spouse is still legally married to another living person
  • Incapacity, when one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to consent to marriage
  • Fraud, coercion or duress, when one or both spouses were forced into marriage
  • Concealed disease, when one of the spouses suffered from a “loathsome disease” and concealed that fact from the other spouse.
There may be certain time limits associated with filing for an annulment, depending on the ground for the request.

Hawaiian courts do not have the authority to grant alimony or divide property in an annulment. Courts can decide child custody, support and visitation issues though.

What are your Options for Getting a Divorce in Hawaii?

Options for Getting a Divorce

You have several options for divorce in Hawaii. How you go about the process will be driven by your personal circumstances, and the amount of conflict you have with your spouse.

Do-It-Yourself divorce

This is known as an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on all the issues in advance, you can file paperwork with the court stating this fact, and you will usually be granted a divorce in a short amount of time, the least amount of emotional stress, and the lowest possible costs.

You may be able to go through the entire process without appearing in front of a judge, or appearing only briefly to answer a few questions.

Online divorce.

This is similar to a DIY divorce, except that you rely a lot more on pre-printed forms and online services or attorneys to help you complete the required paperwork. The automated approach can save a lot of money, but you need to be careful about making costly mistakes if you go this route.

Check out my favorite resource for online divorce: 3 Step Divorce.

Divorce mediation.

You meet with a neutral third party who helps you work through the areas of disagreement you have, such as property division, child custody and visitation, and related issues.

When you strike an agreement, you draw up a proposal and submit it to the court for approval. This is a quicker, cheaper, and less contentious route for many couples than going through a full-blown trial.

Collaborative divorce.

This is an option for couples who still have a fair amount of cooperation and trust between them. Any disagreements are resolved respectfully and amicably using attorneys who are specially trained in collaborative law.

That is less costly than other forms of divorce and leaves decisions with the couple, and not a judge. If collaboration fails, you can move forward with other types of divorce, but you will need to retain a different attorney if you do.


Litigation is a traditional approach to divorce. You and your attorneys engage with your spouse and their attorneys in an attempt to negotiate a settlement before going to trial. About 95% of all litigated divorces end this way.

If you can reach an agreement through a negotiated settlement or arbitration instead of a trial, then you can save some time and aggravation.


Similar to mediation, but instead of a third-party mediator, you will work with a third party, often a private judge, who will listen to both sides and then issue a binding ruling. People often choose this when there is a fair amount of conflict, but they don’t want the public exposure, cost, and attention that a full trial brings.

What is the Process for Getting a Divorce in Hawaii?

Process of Getting a Divorce

Before you can file for divorce, you must meet residency requirements, including living in Hawaii for at least six months and living you your court’s jurisdiction for at least three months. You can get divorced in Hawaii, even if you got married in another state or another country.

To start a divorce, the plaintiff will need to file will need to file a Complaint for Divorce, Summons To Answer Complaint, and Matrimonial Action Information Sheet. Additional forms may be required based on your circumstances. Forms will vary from island to island.

All divorces are filed with the Family Court.

After paperwork has been filed, you must serve your spouse (now known as the defendant) either through a process server, sheriff’s deputy, registered mail, by anybody 18 or older who is not a party to the divorce, or service by publication.

You need to file a proof of service document with the court once this step has been completed.

The defendant will have an opportunity to file an Answer to the divorce complaint which must be done within 20 days after receiving paperwork. This prevents the plaintiff from obtaining a default judgment.

At this point, you will either agree on all the issues or attempt to negotiate your differences to come up with a settlement agreement. If you can reach agreement on all points, a judge will review the agreement and either approve it or deny some parts of it.

If you can’t agree, then you will need to go to court and proceed with a trial, presenting evidence and testimony before a judge rules on various parts of your divorce. A division of assets, child custody and support, and alimony are often the most contentious flashpoints for disagreement.

Hawaiian courts provide language and sign language interpreters for parties and witnesses free of charge for meaningful access to court proceedings and services.

Can I File for Divorce in Hawaii Without an Attorney?

File for Divorce Without an Attorney

Yes. You do not have to hire an attorney to represent you in Hawaii. However, it might be a good idea to get some legal guidance to find out what your rights and responsibilities are.

If you can’t afford an attorney, there are several legal aid groups in Hawaii that provide assistance either free of charge or based on income.

Can I File for Divorce Online?

Divorce Online

You can start the process online by working with a firm that will help you complete initial paperwork or with an attorney who can assist you via email.

Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.

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But once the paperwork is complete, you must file in person at the courthouse serving your jurisdiction.

Can I Mail Divorce Papers in Hawaii?

After you file with the court, one of the ways to complete proof of service is by registered or certified mail.

This is often done when a defendant lives outside of Hawaii.

After the mailing is complete, you will need to submit an affidavit showing that the required papers were sent by registered or certified mail and by the receipt signed by the defendant

Can I Refuse or Contest a Divorce?

You can’t refuse to get divorced, but you are free to contest the terms of the divorce if you want. Contested divorces take longer and are more expensive. You may need to go this route to protect your interests with an uncooperative or overbearing spouse.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Hawaii?

How Long Does a Divorce Take

It depends.

With an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse agree on all the terms, you don’t have to appear in court and if the judge approves your forms and settlement agreement, it takes about 6-10 weeks after a submission to a judge.

The divorce is effective after the Divorce Decree has been approved and signed by the judge and it has been filed-stamped by the court.

If you disagree on certain issues, you’ll need to negotiate those issues to reach agreement, sometimes through mediation or a collaborative divorce process. Depending on the complexity of your issues and the degree of cooperation with your spouse, this could take several months to resolve.

When you can’t reach agreement, you may have to appear in front of a judge and make your case as part of a trial. This is the costliest form of divorce and can take a year or more to resolve.

What is the Waiting Period?

You must have lived in Hawaii for at least six months prior to filing for a divorce. You must have also lived in the county where you file for at least three months as well.

If you file paperwork with the court for an uncontested divorce, expect your review by a judge to take 6-10 weeks before your divorce is finalized.

The actual time depends on court caseloads and the availability of judges to review and approve your request.

Can I Expedite my Divorce in Hawaii?

To a certain degree, yes.

The best way to speed up your divorce in Hawaii is to cooperatively negotiate with your spouse and agree on all issues before you file. This clears legal issues in advance and makes it easier for a judge to review your case and render a final decision.

Costs are less, anxiety is reduced, and you can move on to the next part of your life much quicker.

If you do have disagreements, you can expedite things by being attentive to requests for information, appear on time at all court dates, and decide what is most important to you in the divorce and what parts you are willing to give up.

The more confrontational you are, the longer the divorce will take.

What is the Cost of a Divorce in Hawaii?

Cost of a Divorce

Filing fees are $215 without minor children. If either party has minor children from their current marriage or any other relationship, an additional $50 fee for Parenting Education is required, bringing the total to $265.

You may be required to pay other associated fees at some point, depending on your case.

These fees may be waived if you can prove you are financially challenged.

How Do I Cancel a Divorce?

If you are the plaintiff in a divorce and you have filed your paperwork, you can file a Motion to Dismiss. This will end your case. You can’t file a motion if you are the defendant.

After your divorce has been finalized by the court, there is no way to cancel it. If you want to reconcile with your spouse, you will need to get married again.

What is a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce means that you and your spouse do not agree on all the issues related to ending your marriage.

You will either have to negotiate out the contested issues or appear in front of a judge who will decide the issues for you during a trial.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse agree on all the issues related to divorce in advance of going to court. This is the simplest, cheapest and quickest way to get a divorce. Oftentimes, an uncontested divorce can take place without the need to retain an attorney.

What is a Decree of Divorce?

Divorce Decree

A Decree of Divorce is the court’s final order granting you a divorce. It contains detailed information about the court’s final decision regarding the legalities of your divorce in Hawaii.

When the decree is finalized, you are single and free to marry again, if you choose to do so.

What is Proof of Divorce?

A proof of divorce document is much less detailed than a Decree of Divorce. It only provides minimal information stating that two people had divorced, when and where the divorce took place. A proof of divorce certificate is often required when a person wants to get remarried.

Although the Hawaii Department of Health Office of Health Status Monitoring is a repository for most all vital records, it does NOT have access to all divorce records. Divorce records are kept in the court where the divorce took place.

Requests for divorce certificates should be directed to the court in which the divorce occurred.

Can I Stop a Divorce?


You can delay the process for a while by not agreeing to a no-fault divorce. However, if someone wants to divorce you, ultimately you cannot stop them.

Can I Reverse a Divorce?

If you are the petitioner in a divorce, and you want to stop a divorce in progress, perhaps because you have reconciled with your spouse, you can do so by filing a request to dismiss the divorce complaint.

However, once a final Dissolution of Marriage has been signed by the courts, the divorce is final.

What is a Bifurcated Divorce?

In rare cases in Hawaii, a judge will allow a couple to divide a divorce into two separate legal actions. This bifurcation may take place when certain issues can be resolved, but a few key issues cannot be decided.

There must be a “good cause standard” that must be met to allow bifurcation to take place. Judges will retain jurisdiction over the divorce with the understanding that remaining issues must be worked out at a later date.

Hawaiian judges are very reluctant to grant bifurcated divorces because of judicial inefficiencies and because there is less incentive to finalize a divorce.

What is a No-fault Divorce?

What is a No-fault Divorce 1

Hawaii permits no-fault divorces which means that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences and there is no chance to get back together.

You do not need to state any specific reasons why you want to get divorced. This streamlines the process, saving time, costs, and stress for both sides.

How Does Infidelity Affect Divorce?

Hawaii is a no-fault state and adultery cannot be used as a reason to get a divorce.

Similarly, a judge will not use adultery or any other marital misconduct when deciding things such as alimony, child support or a division of assets.

Changing Your Name

You will be presented either an option to restore your former name or request a court order for changing names when preparing your divorce forms.

The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.

Just having a court order does not mean your name change has taken effect. You will need to contact all of your organizations to request your records are updated.

It’s best to begin by updating your name with the Social Security Administration. Once complete, you can go on to change names everywhere else.

It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.

Read More: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name

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