Sheila Vierra, Attorney at Law, LLLC
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How do the Hawaiian courts handle homes in a divorce?

Hawaii may be paradise, but that doesn't mean that everyone who lives here ends up with that "happily ever after." Many couples living in Hawaii can find themselves facing divorce, even after long marriages.

It's only natural to worry about how the courts will handle your little piece of paradise in your divorce. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement or a very unusual situation (such as one spouse owning the home outright prior to marriage), the home you lived in is probably subject to division. Familiarizing yourself with Hawaiian divorce law can help you understand what to expect.

The courts will do their best to be fair when dividing your assets

The courts in Hawaii consider married couples to have a mutual interest in any assets and debt acquired during marriage. Hawaii's standard for asset division is equitable distribution. However, it's important to realize that equitable does not always mean equal.

The courts consider several specific factors regarding asset division. These are your assets and debts when you married, what each of you received as gifts or inheritances during the marriage and all of your current assets and debts. Other factors, such as spousal wrongdoing, will not impact the asset division process. Each spouse is then awarded a specific percentage of the marital estate.

The home may be specifically allocated to one spouse

In some cases, such as those with minor children remaining in the primary custody of one spouse, the courts may award the home to one of the two spouses. In that situation, the other spouse either receives valuable assets equivalent to his or her share in the equity of the home or a portion of the equity.

The spouse retaining the home will refinance to remove the other party from the mortgage and vesting for the property. At that time, withdrawing some of the equity to repay the other spouse may be an option.

The courts sometimes order the sale of real estate

In some cases, the courts may order the sale of your family home. This could happen when there's little equity or when both spouses indicate a desire to move on from the property. It can also happen if neither spouse can qualify for financing of the property alone.

The courts may also require the sale of real estate such as investment properties or vacation homes. Alternatively, spouses may split the value of those assets with one another without selling them. Each divorce is as unique as the couple divorcing and the assets they've acquired during marriage. While you can't necessarily predict the outcome of a divorce, you can inform yourself about the likely results and use that information to plan your way forward.

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