Particulars of alimony Hawaii spouses ought to understand may especially come in handy during separation or divorce.

When a marriage ends, the financially dependent spouse may need alimony for support. However, alimony isn’t automatic.

Read on to find out how you may qualify, the types of alimony available, and how long you may receive support payments.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, refers to a court-ordered payment made by one spouse to the other. Spousal support is one of the issues that couples have to address if they decide to terminate their marriage. Typically, this issue will come up between spouses if there’s a significant discrepancy in income.

Hawaii alimony laws provide that spousal support is meant to help a spouse become self-sufficient after divorce. Further, it should help the lower-earning spouse maintain their marital lifestyle. However, a spousal support award isn’t guaranteed as part of a divorce settlement.

Determination of Spousal Support in Hawaii

Under Hawaii divorce laws, spousal support isn’t a right or obligation of either spouse. A judge must determine a need for financial support by one spouse and the ability of the other to pay. The divorcing spouses are expected to agree on alimony issues, or a court will make the decision. They may agree whether spousal support will be awarded, who will pay, the amount, and how long it will last.

Prenuptial agreements can also be used to set alimony issues straight before the marriage. Partners who wish to get married may put it in writing how they will deal with spousal support issues if their marriage ends. If a Hawaii family court determines that a prenuptial agreement is valid and legally binding, it may use it to issue an order on alimony.

Types of Spousal Support Hawaii Spouses May Get

Spousal support awards are either temporary, short-term (rehabilitative or transitional), or permanent. A judge will order temporary spousal support if he or she establishes that the requesting spouse needs financial support during the pendency of the divorce. It follows that the payment of temporary alimony ends once the judge issues a divorce decree.

– Temporary Alimony

Temporary spousal support is important to help a spouse meet their financial needs before the divorce is finalized. Normally, separation means that the supported spouse will have to pay bills that would have otherwise been paid by the other spouse.

– Short-Term Alimony

After temporary alimony ends, the judge will determine whether short-term transitional spousal support is appropriate. This type of alimony helps the lower-earning spouse adjust to a new lifestyle after divorce. Normally, this type of spousal support will last only a few months after the divorce is finalized.

– Rehabilitative Alimony

A lower-earning spouse may also be eligible for rehabilitative short-term alimony. It is the most common in Hawaii and is meant to help the receiving spouse become self-supporting. Particularly, it helps when the spouse is receiving the educational credits or vocational training necessary to acquire employment.

Rehabilitative short-term alimony lasts for as long as a judge believes is necessary for the receiving spouse to get employment. According to alimony laws in Hawaii, the spouse is required to submit a plan to the court to be awarded rehabilitative alimony. The spouse should explain how the plan will help them get a suitable job within the specified period.

– Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is the other type of spousal support available to a requesting spouse. It isn’t exactly “permanent” as its name suggests, but it is long-term. Though rare, the court may award permanent alimony to a spouse who is unable to get employment due to a condition or advanced age.

Calculation of Spousal Support in Hawaii

A court will first determine whether the requesting spouse needs financial support and whether the other can pay. Once it establishes that this is the case, what follows is deciding the amount of spousal support. Typically, the type, duration, and amount of Hawaii spousal maintenance will be determined by the following factors:

  • The financial resources of each spouse
  • The marital standard of living
  • The ability of the requesting spouse to maintain their marital lifestyle without support
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The occupational situation of each spouse during marriage
  • The education, vocational skills, or employability of the requesting spouse
  • Each spouse’s financial needs
  • Each spouse’s financial circumstances, including income, assets, expenses, and debts
  • Child custody and support responsibilities
  • The likely duration of need for support of the requesting spouse
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant

In Hawaii, courts have broad discretion when deciding whether a spousal support award is appropriate and, if so, the type, duration and amount to order. There’s no preset formula for calculating spousal maintenance in Hawaii.

Paying Spousal Support in Hawaii

After determining that the lower-earning spouse needs financial support, the court will order the other spouse to begin paying. The court will decide the most suitable form of payment. However, most spousal support payments are made periodically, say weekly or monthly. Often, monthly payments are considered the most suitable.

In Hawaii, most family courts order that alimony payments be done through the state’s Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). When payments are done through this agency, the receiving spouse will get the payments directly from the other spouse’s paychecks.

In rare cases, payment of alimony may be in the form of property distribution. This may happen if the paying spouse doesn’t have a stable job but has many valuable assets. These may include intermittent wages and annuity, and the payment will be made as a lump sum.

Defaulting on Spousal Support

Spouses who abandon payment of alimony or have habitual problems with payments risk being charged with contempt of court. This means that they violated a court order and could face punishment, including fines or a jail term.

Keep in mind that family courts in Hawaii track spousal support payments. As such, the receiving spouse doesn’t have to file a complaint for the paying spouse to be held in contempt of court. In such cases, the state’s attorney is likely to file the paperwork themselves.

The receiving spouse may also request the court to enforce payment of spousal support. In that case, the court will issue the paying spouse with a summons or any other document asking them to appear in court. If it gets to this point, the spouse will have to take steps to pay the alimony arrears.

Usually, the court might give you more time to pay what you owe or come up with a new payment plan. If you fail to make payments again, you might face more severe penalties.

Terminating or Modifying a Spousal Support Order

Spouses who agree on matters of alimony may also specify when payments will end and whether the terms of alimony can be modified. This can be done during negotiations or through a prenuptial agreement before marriage. However, if none of these arrangements are made in writing, a spouse may request the court to review a spousal support order.

A spouse who requests a court to review an alimony order must show that there has been a significant change in their circumstances since the order was issued. A change in circumstances may include any of the following:

  • Involuntary job loss or significant decrease in the income of the paying spouse
  • Increase in the income of the receiving spouse
  •  A physical condition that reduces the ability of the paying spouse to work
  • The receiving spouse remarries or cohabits with a non-relative adult

How Does the Modification of Alimony Work?

Normally, a request for review of the order is done through an affidavit that explains any financial or physical changes the spouse has experienced.

After evaluating the change in circumstances, the court determines whether it is substantial enough to make alimony payment unfair. If it is, the judge will change the amount or duration, or even terminate the award.

Unless otherwise stated in an agreement, spousal support automatically ends if the receiving spouse remarries or cohabits with another person. Hawaii Statutes provide that the remarried spouse must notify the court about the remarriage within 30 days of the marriage. If they fail to do that, the spouse risks having to pay reimbursement of alimony, court fees, and attorney fees.

Tax Implications on Spousal Support Payments

As of January 1, 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the tax implication on alimony. Previously, the receiving spouse had to report alimony as an income and the paying spouse had to deduct payments.

With the enactment of this act, both reporting requirements were eliminated. Spouses who are unsure how the tax changes affect their case should consult a family law attorney before signing any alimony agreement.

Conclusion

Spouses who wish to end their marriage may have to talk about spousal support, especially if one is financially dependent on the other. Here are the most important things about alimony that spouses should keep in mind:

  • Alimony award depends on a spouse need for financial support and the other’s ability to pay
  • A court may award temporary, short-term, or permanent (long-term) alimony
  • A spouse may request termination or modification of alimony if there’s a significant change in circumstances
  • Alimony issues can be agreed upon by spouses through negotiations or a judge can decide in court.

Spousal support payments continue unless a judge modifies or terminates the award following a spouse’s request. Generally, payments will stop when the receiving spouse remarries.

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Divorce & Finance