Home  Divorce


[See below for FAQs and fees.]

The economic picture has affected divorce like it has affected all other areas of our lives. Couples are under additional strains as the properties that once had enough equity to allow both to move on are now underwater in debt. As you consider or move into divorce, all aspects of debt and equity need to be evaluated.

Hawaii is a no fault divorce state, which means that it's enough to say the marriage is irretrievably broken. No personal matters about the marriage problems need to be stated in the divorce papers unless you need a court hearing on those issues. This also means that your spouse does not have to consent - you can get a divorce even if your spouse does not agree.

In order to file for divorce in Hawaii, you must be a resident of Hawaii, and in order to be actually granted a divorce, at least one spouse must be a resident of Hawaii for at least six months and at least one spouse must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months. This is a little confusing, because the Complaint for Divorce provided by the Family Court requires the filer to state that s/he has lived in Hawaii for six months, but it means that even if you just arrived, if you intend to stay, then you can file for divorce.

Members of the military who are stationed here but deployed or living elsewhere are usually considered Hawaii residents, although they may also be residents of another state for divorce purposes. Our office works with deployed military members during their deployment to obtain divorces and address custody and child support by using a combination of email, extranet, digital documents, and Skype, although old-fashioned mail is still needed for original signatures on court documents.

An uncontested divorce will be finalized about eight to twelve weeks after all documents are submitted to the court. On the other end of the spectrum, a contested divorce, with or without custody issues, can easily take a year or more.

A divorce is uncontested when the parties agree on all terms and cooperate fully in signing papers; a contested divorce requires conferences, negotiations, and possibly court hearings.If your spouse has an attorney, I consider the divorce to be contested.

Preparation for divorce

Whether the divorce will be contested or uncontested, it is a good idea to begin preparing your financial matters beforehand, even before informing your spouse that you want a divorce or filing papers, because while a divorce decree divides your assets and debts between you, creditors, future lenders, and the IRS are not bound by the decree.

This does not mean hiding assets or moving joint assets into your name alone without your spouse's permission or knowledge - such actions will cause you problems in the courts and draw out the time and expense of divorce. It does mean that tax returns should not be signed without careful scrutiny, and the partner planning to divorce should ensure that the tax bill is indeed paid. The IRS may be able to hold you responsible for your spouse's tax debts from the marriage.

If your spouse may become vengeful or simply has bad spending habits, or if you are the one leaving the marital residence, opt out of pre-approved credit offers now by going to www.optoutprescreen.com. If you are no longer in the marital residence and these offers keep arriving, the former spouse will have easy access to credit in your name.

This is a good time to make sure, if possible, that your spouse does not expend large amounts of money on toys or other personal gratifications like expensive travel. That money will be lost to the marital estate. It is also helpful to gather all the paperwork you will need for the divorce and for your future life. Once divorce papers are filed, things may become contentious, and logic and preparation become difficult.

Gather the marital financial information - make copies of bank statements and other financial statements; make copies of IRS records; keep accurate records of your household's expenses.

If you have been served papers

Check your papers carefully as soon as you receive them. They contain deadlines that you must meet.

If you've been served papers and think you are willing to sign the proposed decree sent to you, but want to be cautious and have an attorney look it over for you, we can sit down with you, discuss your situation and the proposal, and give you advice on whether it's harmful to you or not. Many attorneys will do this on an hourly basis, with no retainer fee necessary.Remember, once you sign & submit the decree, it's final.

If you do not agree with your spouse's statements in the papers, do your research and get advice as soon as possible. It is less efficient to go to an attorney just days before a hearing or deadline- deadlines for filing responses or getting exhibits to the other side may have been missed; it may be more difficult to get required documents together; it may simply be that you can't find the right person to represent you on such short notice and your options are now limited.

Divorce FAQs

I know my spouse and I are going to disagree over the our property and money. How does the court divide things?

Hawaii is an equitable division state and uses the Partnership Model. Usually money that one person brings into the marriage is theirs to take out of the marriage (with exceptions, of course), as are gifts and inheritances. Appreciation in that property, though, may be subject to division between the spouses, and the percentage of given to the spouse may vary with the length of the marriage. Assets acquired during the marriage with earnings generally belong equally to each spouse, regardless of how much each did or did not contribute to the acquisition or upkeep of the assets. Retirement is divided according to a formula. Of course, it is not that simple, but that's the basic framework.

How much will it cost?

First, for everyone, the court filing fee is $175 without children and $225 with children.

For an uncontested divorce, we charge a flat fee and many attorneys do the same. An uncontested divorce means that the two of you have talked about the terms and reached an agreement - there are no surprises or statements like "I think s/he will agree." We advise only one party, because ethically we cannot give advice to parties on different sides. We advise that person on what the agreed-upon terms mean and how the parties' agreement might differ from the other possibilities. We draw up a complete divorce decree, covering all issues, and handle all of the paperwork.

The fee depends on your particular situation. You pay the filing fee separately through our office. The filing fee and flat fee are paid at the start of your case.

1. Without children: $1,100.

2. One party is out of state: add $50; if one party is out of the country: add $100.

3. With children:$1,250.

(We do NOT draft Qualified Domestic Relations Plans for retirement division and if your particular retirement needs a QDRO, will refer you to a QDRO preparer.)

4. Expedited:add $200 if you need your papers submitted to the court within one week of engaging us, two weeks if your spouse is out of state.

If you and your spouse change your agreement along the way,we will make a change at no additonal charge. Each change after that will be $100. Additional consultations are by the hour at our regular hourly rate.

In all contested cases, we can do a 10 minute free phone consultation with you. In that talk, we give an overview of the law that will govern your particular situation. We do not give legal advice in that phone conversation.

If you wish to obtain more information and actual advice, or to see if we are a good fit for you based on what you hear from us in person about your case, you can schedule a one hour consultation with us at our usual hourly rate, below. At that meeting, we also evaluate whether your case is a good fit for our office. This consultation may not result in an attorney-client relationship, but you will leave with solid information about the law and possible outcomes of your case.

For contested divorces, we have hourly arrangements.. Our hourly rate in these retainer cases is $270. Our usual retainer starts at $3,500. It is not possible for us to give an estimate of the cost of an entire case.

If you do not want or cannot afford full representation, we have a pay-as-you-go arrangement. The initial retainer of $1,500 is considerably less than for full representation,and we do not file your court documents or communicate with your spouse or her/his attorney. Instead, we are available on an as-needed basis to draft letters or other documents including discovery requests and responses and to consult when you have questions. An hourly fee of $270 also applies for work done under this arrangement.

If you wish to proceed on the pay-as-you-go arrangement without any retainer at all, the hourly fee is $300. This means that we are available to review your case with you in person by appointment by the hour, and will keep a file on your case, but are not available by phone or email and do not file documents for you.

A consultation or second opinion may be what you need. You may have questions about documents given to you by your spouse's attorney and need answers before you sign, or have questions about your options as you and your spouse work out an agreement. A consultation is $270 per hour for the first hourt. If you come prepared to the meeting with all of the information we need to assess your situation, you can leave armed with the information you need to decide how to proceed. We can continue to provide consultation services by in-person appointment on an hourly, no-retainer basis of $300 per hour. Second opinions are also $270 for the first hour.

How long will it take?

It's impossible to answer that one too. Each case is very different in that regard. One case may have business valuations, multiple properties and custody issues yet settle within a year. Another case may have one property and no children but take much longer. And many cases settle suddenly somewhere in the process. Divorce and custody settlements are so dependent on the individual goals and feelings of each party that you should be prepared for anything to happen - after you've prepared for the worst.

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