In the process of a divorce, it is not uncommon for one (or both) spouses to withdraw significant funds from joint bank accounts, cancel existing credit and debit cards, redirect income to accounts controlled by one spouse, or cancel the other spouse’s health insurance or other needed services.

Whether done maliciously or in a well-meaning effort to preserve a former couple’s resources, these actions can place one spouse at a severe disadvantage if he or she is unemployed, has a substantially lower income, or lacks access to the joint accounts and income. In addition, one spouse may try to permanently relocate to another state with the children without the consent of the other spouse.

In July, 2018, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 213, which makes Automatic Restraining Orders mandatory in all divorce cases in the state. The intent is to protect both the spouse who is in a financially disadvantaged position during a divorce from being cut off financially, as well as to protect one spouse from having the other spouse leave the state permanently with the children. In both cases the automatic restraining order prohibits these actions until they are agreed on by the spouses or litigated by a judge. This new law requires that the Automatic Restraining Order go into effect immediately for the spouse filing the Complaint for Divorce, and upon service for the spouse not filing the Complaint for Divorce.

An automatic restraining order prevents both parties from making drastic, unilateral changes to their situation except in limited circumstances. Practically speaking, it limits both spouses to use of their finances for regular purposes, and prevents the parties from moving children off-island or away from their current school. If either side wants to make substantial changes during the divorce, they usually need approval from the judge or their spouse.