Alimony in Hawaii is a common conversation among spouses on the verge of terminating their marriage through divorce. Particularly, alimony, also referred to as spousal support, may be awarded by the court if there is a discrepancy in the spouses’ incomes.
However, alimony isn’t always part of a divorce settlement or decree – the presiding judge must establish that there is a need to order alimony. In this article, we highlight the process of determining eligibility for alimony, calculating, and modifying alimony in the state.
How To Calculate Alimony in Hawaii
There is no fixed formula used to calculate spousal support in Hawaii. Since there are no guidelines governing the determination of alimony amount and duration in the state, judges have full discretion in determining these aspects of alimony.
Before calculating alimony, the court must establish whether the requesting spouse qualifies for spousal support. Only after determining that the requesting spouse needs financial assistance and the other spouse can pay alimony can the court order alimony.
Once the court determines that alimony is necessary, the judge will consider the following factors to determine the type, amount, and duration of alimony:
- The financial resources of each spouse.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The spouses’ living standard during the marriage.
- Each spouse’s age, emotional, and physical condition.
- The usual occupation of each spouse during the marriage.
- Each spouse’s needs.
- The employability and vocational skills of the supported spouse.
- The ability of the payor spouse to meet both spouses’ financial needs.
- The ability of the supported spouse to meet their financial needs without support.
- Child custody and support responsibilities.
- The projected duration of the requesting spouse’s need for support. ((Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-47 (2018).)
- Any other factors the court may deem relevant.
– Amount of Alimony
After evaluating the factors above, a judge will determine how much alimony to award the supported spouse. The judge will order an amount that won’t result in a hardship for the paying spouse. For instance, it wouldn’t be reasonable for a judge to order an amount close to or similar to the payor spouse’s gross income.
The amount of alimony ordered by the judge should be sufficient to meet the supported spouse’s needs. This amount helps the spouse maintain their marital living standard as they adjust to a one-income household.
– Duration of Alimony
Like the amount of alimony, there is no guideline for determining the duration of alimony. However, alimony laws in Hawaii provide that alimony be awarded for a duration necessary for the requesting spouse to become self-supporting.
The duration of alimony in Hawaii is determined by the type of alimony awarded. If the judge awarded temporary alimony during the divorce process, support would continue until the judge finalizes the divorce.
After the divorce finalization, the judge may order short-term (rehabilitative or transitional) alimony to help the supported spouse adjust to a new living standard post-divorce. In many cases, transitional alimony continues for a short time after divorce.
Rehabilitative support is another form of short-term support in Hawaii and is the most common. This support is necessary for a spouse receiving an education or job training to get employment and finally become self-supporting.
Rehabilitative spousal support continues for a duration the court believes is necessary for the lower-earning spouse to acquire employment and become financially independent. Hawaii alimony laws (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-47 (13) (2018)) require that the supported spouse submits a plan to the court showing how they intend to achieve financial independence.
Hawaii courts rarely order long-term or permanent alimony, but it may be awarded to spouses who can’t find employment due to disability or advanced age.
Couples can better control the amount and duration of spousal support by negotiating and coming up with a settlement agreement. If the court approves the terms of alimony in the agreement, it will enter it in the final divorce decree.
How To Pay Alimony in Hawaii
The typical way of paying spousal support in Hawaii is by making monthly payments. In most cases, the final divorce order will come with an income withholding order to allow for seamless alimony payment.
With this order, the employer must withhold a portion of their employee’s paycheck and direct it to the state’s Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). The agency then sends the payments to the supported spouse.
In cases where the paying spouse lacks a steady job but has a significant amount of assets, such as intermittent wages and annuity, the court will likely order them to make a lump-sum payment of support.
Failure to adhere to a spousal support order could lead to contempt charges. Non-payment of support could result in penalties such as fines, liens on property, and jail time.
How To Avoid Paying Spousal Support in Hawaii
Changing or terminating an alimony order is a good way to avoid paying support. If couples hadn’t agreed on the non-modification of alimony, either party could petition the court to change the support order.
Before reviewing the request, the court requires the requesting spouse to submit an affidavit indicating that there has been a material or substantial change in circumstances since the last alimony order. The change could be financial, physical, or any other – provided it warrants support modification.
If the court establishes that the change is substantial enough to make alimony payments unconscionable, the judge will likely modify or terminate the obligation to pay support.
– Modification of Alimony
The paying spouse can request the court to modify the support if a significant change makes it unreasonable to continue paying the support ordered. Some events that could warrant the modification of alimony include:
- Involuntary job loss.
- Reduction of income.
- A health condition that reduces a spouse’s earning capacity.
If the court finds a valid reason to modify Hawaii spousal support, the judge will enter a new support order. However, you must continue paying support until the court enters the new order.
– Termination of Alimony
Unless otherwise agreed by the spouses, spousal support automatically terminates upon the supported spouse’s remarriage. The supported spouse must notify the court of the remarriage through a notice filed no later than 30 days after the marriage. Otherwise, that spouse risks reimbursing spousal support and paying other related costs.
In Hawaii, spousal support also terminates upon the death of either spouse. Depending on the type of support ordered, the obligation to pay terminates on the date specified by the court.
For instance, temporary Hawaii spousal maintenance ends upon the finalization of the divorce. Short-term transitional or rehabilitative support ends after the duration specified by the court elapses. If a court ordered rehabilitative support for two years, the obligation to pay ends after that.
Where a court orders long-term alimony, payments will continue indefinitely until the death of either spouse or the payor spouse petitions the court to end support. If the court finds a valid reason to discontinue payment, it will terminate support.
– Is Hawaii a 50/50 Divorce State?
No. Hawaii is an equitable distribution state, meaning that courts divvy up marital assets fairly or equitably. Property isn’t always divided 50/50 during divorce, as this may not be a fair distribution for the spouses.
Remember that “equal” and “equitable” aren’t necessarily the same in property division. Courts have to find a way to divide assets and liabilities equitably between the spouses.
– Who Gets Alimony in Hawaii: Husband or Wife?
Alimony in Hawaii is gender-neutral. It is awarded to either spouse, provided they can show that they need financial assistance during or after divorce. Due to the traditional family setup where the wife stayed home and cared for the children, alimony was mostly awarded to the wife. However, with the continuing shift in roles in the family, it is not uncommon for the husband to receive alimony.
Alimony in Hawaii isn’t guaranteed when a couple is divorcing – one of the spouses has to show that they need financial support from their spouse. Spousal support can be agreed upon by a couple before starting the divorce process or can be court-ordered if the spouses can’t agree. In this article, we’ve discussed how alimony in Hawaii is determined, calculated, and changed. So, let’s wind up the discussion by highlighting the main points.
- Spousal support in Hawaii is calculated by considering factors such as the financial resources of both spouses.
- Courts in Hawaii can award temporary, short-term rehabilitative or transitional spousal support or long-term support.
- The paying spouse will most likely make monthly support payments to their spouse through an income withholding order.
- If there is a substantial change since the last support order, either spouse can petition the court to change or terminate alimony.
Unless spouses agreed to the non-modification of alimony before the divorce, either spouse might request the court to modify or terminate the obligation to pay alimony. If remarriage or cohabitation makes support payment unconscionable, the paying spouse can ask the court to review the original support order.
However, the spouse requesting modification or termination of alimony has to prove that the continuation of alimony payment will result in undue financial strain.
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