While the state of Hawaii recognizes legal separations, this is a process completely different from the divorce process. In some states, a separation can be one of several steps along the path to divorce, but in Hawaii these are completely different paths. In other words, a Hawaii separation will not become a divorce.
If a married couple in Hawaii decides to legally separate and later decides to get divorced, they will have to begin a completely new process, complete with new forms and filing fees. If a couple is confident that they want a divorce, they can begin the divorce process with the information and forms provided. If a couple is contemplating divorce but is still unsure, possible options include the courses of action discussed below.
If a married couple wishes to live separate and apart, is unsure they want a divorce, but wants to establish custody or support arrangements in the meantime, they can make a separation agreement. A couple may live separate without a separation agreement. However, signing a separation agreement allows the couple to place some basic rules on the separation. In the separation agreement, they will agree about whether one of them will pay the other alimony and how much, who will keep what property, who the children will live with, and whether one of them will pay the other child support.
In order to create a separation agreement, the couple must jointly complete this questionnaire, which is also available at the Legal Assistance Office. After completing the form, turn it back in to the Legal Assistance Office. We will draft a separation agreement that the husband and wife can both sign. This is a contract between the husband and wife, but the family court is not involved.
Alternatively, a married couple may be thinking about divorce but not want to go through the different separation and divorce processes. After all, going through a separation and then a divorce involves filling out paperwork twice and paying fees twice. To avoid this, they may file for divorce but wait to file all of the divorce paperwork. To file for divorce, the husband or wife must file a complaint, summons, and matrimonial action form. After filing, the court keeps the divorce open for one year before dismissing it if the couple does not file any other documents. This gives the couple a year to decide if they want a divorce or to negotiate the terms of the divorce. At any point during that year, they may file all of the remaining divorce forms to complete the uncontested divorce.