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Hawaii Court Records

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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Hawaii

Divorce and annulment are two legal ways for married individuals to dissolve the marriage contract in Hawaii. An action to divorce or annul begins and ends in the family court division of the Hawaii Judiciary. The court also maintains publicly available records of the divorce or annulment proceedings, and interested persons may access the court records unless prohibited by a court order or statute.

What is a Hawaii Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree in Hawaii is an order issued and signed by a Hawaiian judge that dissolves matrimony (HRS §580–45).. The divorce decree also restores the divorcees to maiden status and legally permits the parties to remarry (HRS §580–52)..

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Hawaii?

An annulment is a decree of nullity, declaring a marriage contract void under Hawaii laws (HRS §580–21).. There are six primary grounds for annulment in Hawaii per the same statute. Some of these include familial relation between the couple, nonage of either spouse, mental incapacity, and concealing a loathsome disease. Likewise, marriage contracts entered under force, duress, and fraud are void ex post facto.

Annulment of this marriage begins when the plaintiff, or a minor’s parent, submits a petition at the family court. Divorce and annulment proceedings are open to the public unless there are minors involved. Likewise, divorce and annulment records are accessible to the public except those containing information on children or other sensitive data.

Annulment vs. Divorce in Hawaii

  • Similarities:

Both legal actions are different and have different consequences. Nonetheless, divorce and annulment share few similarities as both follow the family court rules and dissolve the bonds of matrimony. Also, the children involved in either action are legitimate under Hawaii laws.

  • Differences:
  • Validity: The court holds that a marriage contract is valid and binding on both parties until the issuance of a divorce decree. For annulment, the court voids the marriage contract from the date of union hitherto.
  • Filing grounds: The grounds on which a person may file for divorce or annulment are different. The court may dissolve a marriage based on irreconcilable differences, but not for an annulment.
  • Time of action: Intending divorcees may initiate the suit at any time. However, an annulment action is often subject to the statute of limitation. For example, a plaintiff filing on the ground of physical incapacity must do so within two (2) years of solemnization (HRS §580–28). Suffice to say that the court will question the motivation for annulment if the plaintiff fails to initiate action immediately after he/she is aware of the invalidity of the marriage.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce in Hawaii?

No, an annulment generally costs more than an uncontested divorce and takes longer. Per HRS §580–29, the court will reject an annulment petition based on the testimony or confession. Thus, the plaintiff must produce satisfactory evidence that establishes the nullity of the marriage. Consequently, the medicolegal documents required to establish nullity makes annulment comparably expensive.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Hawaii?

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the parties involved agree on the grounds of divorce and have prepared a mutually benefitting divorce agreement. The agreement must detail the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, and rights to alimony, child custody, and child support. Generally, the process is streamlined, does not require a court appearance, takes less time, and saves legal costs compared with a contested divorce.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Hawaii?

Divorce forms are available at the family court in the county where either intending divorcee resides. The judiciary has also provided the divorce forms and instructions online. Note that these instructions are island-specific, although there are similarities in the procedure. For example, see how to file an uncontested divorce on the island of O’ahu. Furthermore, Hawaii has a dual residency requirement for intending divorcees. To begin the action, either spouse must have resided in Hawaii for at least three months. And to get a final decree of divorce, either spouse must have resided in Hawaii for six months.

Court records created and submitted during a divorce are available to interested persons after final adjudication. To inspect and copy the divorce records, visit the family court that adjudicated the divorce. These records are also available online. Parties privy to divorce must use the Judiciary Electronic Filing and Service System (JEFS) to download or print documents for free. On the other hand, the public can only access divorce court records on the eCourt Kokua page. The service is subscription-based for public requesters.

For mail requests, complete the request form, enclose it in a self-addressed stamped envelope, and mail it to the court of record. The requester must also attach payment for the applicable fees (see the Hawaii court fee schedule)..

Meanwhile, when the court seals a divorce record, unauthorized persons cannot access it at the courthouse, online, or by mail. The requester must obtain a court order to access the specific document of interest. Still, the record custodian will redact the sensitive data on the divorce record before allowing third-party access.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Hawaii?

Visit the family court that adjudicated the divorce filing and request the divorce decree at the office of the clerk. The clerk only accommodates in-person requests during business hours, and the requester must provide the necessary details to retrieve the divorce decree. These include the divorce case number, party names, and the date of the divorce decree. The clerk will provide an estimate for the associated fees.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability is not guaranteed. Similarly, their availability through third-party websites and companies is not guaranteed, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records is not guaranteed.

How do I get a Hawaii Divorce Decree Online?

The judiciary does not process online requests for divorce decrees. The requester must visit the family court to get a copy of the divorce decree.

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