In most states, spousal support is a standard component of a divorce decree. But Hawaii judges award alimony in less than 10 percent of the divorce cases in the Rainbow State.
The high percentage of dual-income couples in Hawaii has something to do with that number. Since both spouses are working, there is less need for alimony, or at least that is the argument. Perhaps more importantly, many Kona divorce lawyers take the wrong approach in these matters. They assume that the judge will award alimony, so they only focus on matters concerning the amount and duration of payments. If your Kona divorce lawyer overlooks the first part of this dance, the mistake could cost you thousands of dollars.
Justice and Equity
Under Hawaii law, judges may only award spousal support if such an award is just and equitable under the circumstances. Before looking at the factors in this area, it’s important to look at the big picture.
Divorced women are five times more likely to live in poverty than divorced men. Additionally, divorced men rebuild long-term wealth much more quickly than divorced women. In other words, divorced women are behind the eight-ball from a financial perspective, and they are likely to remain there.
With these key facts in mind, it is easier to determine if alimony is appropriate in a given situation. Some factors include:
- Abilities of Each Spouse: In general, young, healthy, and well-educated people earn more money than old, ill, and poorly-educated people. If one spouse (usually the wife) is significantly behind the other one, this factor could be huge.
- Financial Condition of Each Spouse: This factor generally relates to the nonmarital property, if any, each spouse receives in the divorce settlement. If Wife has significant, revenue-producing property, she arguably does not need spousal support. But these cases are rare.
- Child Custody Matters: Typically, it’s in the best interests of the children for them to remain in the family home. If the residential parent needs some help with house payments and other expenses, the non-residential parent must provide it.
- Divorce Conduct: Generally, fault and other martial misconduct is not relevant to alimony determinations. Spousal support is not a fine or a penalty. However, if one spouse did something like violate a protective order or try to hide assets, a Kona divorce lawyer can use that misconduct as leverage for alimony payments.
Since there is basically a presumption in Hawaii that spousal support is inappropriate, the party requesting alimony must present substantial evidence in more than one of these areas.
Amount and Duration of Payments
If the alimony request survives the first test, the next issue is the amount and duration of payments. In some states, this test is similar to the amount and duration of child support payments. There is a mathematical formula which produces presumptively reasonable results.
But in Hawaii, the judge has a great deal of discretion in this area. Instead of an arithmetic formula, the amount and duration of payments depends on factors like:
- Obligor’s ability to pay,
- Obligee’s financial need,
- Duration of the marriage,
- Standard of living during the marriage, and
- Child custody matters.
There is some overlap between the justice-and-equity factors and the amount-and-duration factors.
Kona Divorce Lawyers and Alimony Modification
Typically, the judge retains continuing jurisdiction over the divorce. If either party moves, the relocating party can ask a family law judge in the new county to assume continuing jurisdiction over the case.
This matter is important, because alimony awards are subject to change at any time. Generally, the requesting spouse must show that the financial circumstances of one or both parties has materially and substantially changed, and the change was unanticipated at the time of the decree.
The obligor’s retirement may not be grounds for modification. Retirement is not an unanticipated change. Moreover, if the obligor took early retirement to lower his alimony obligation, it’s even harder for and Kona divorce lawyer to modify the mount and duration of payments.
The obligee’s remarriage may not be grounds for modification either. Similarly, remarriage is not an unanticipated change. Additionally, a long-term relationship is not the same thing as a remarriage, even if there is some limited financial interdependence.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Kona Divorce Lawyer
Alimony is not a given in a Hawaii County marriage dissolution matter. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Kona divorce lawyer, contact Olson & Sons, L.C. Convenient payment plans are available.