A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a formal legal order issued by a judge that forces or prevents an action for a specified time frame. In family law, they are enacted to prevent future problems by prohibiting one person from approaching another. In Hawaii, these types of restraining orders can be issued by Family Court or District Court.

Family Court TROs can be issued to family or household members such as spouses, former spouses, unmarried parents, cohabitants, those in a dating relationship, and even for household pets. They usually focus on prohibiting one household member from harming another through physical, psychological, financial, verbal, or emotional abuse, or malicious property damage. For TROs involving children, a judge can order a social worker from the Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare branch to evaluate possible threats to the children from another family or household member.

District Court restraining orders are for those who do not fall under Family Court relationship categories – such as neighbors and co-workers – and provide protection from harassment as well as physical harm.

In both cases, a judge reviews the TRO request without the parties present and, if there is sufficient concern about the threat of harm, then the judge will issue the TRO to keep the related individuals apart immediately and set a hearing within two weeks to evaluate facts and determine if further protections should be ordered for a longer period of time or if the TRO should be dissolved. The judge can issue an Order for Protection for months or even years if they deem it appropriate. In both types of TROs, responding parties are required to turn in any firearms subject to return after the TRO is resolved or expired.

Spouses who are going through a divorce may seek a Family Court TRO separate from the divorce or even ask for similar relief as part of their divorce case. Filing a TRO and the accompanying Ex Parte Petition for a Protective Order is a simple process that can be done without a lawyer at the Family Court facility in Kapolei or the Circuit Court building on Punchbowl Street.

If approved, a judge can issue the TRO as early as the same day. The court will schedule a hearing within two weeks of the date of filing. At the hearing, the person requesting the order for protection must demonstrate to the court that there concerns of harm or threat of harm are genuine, and that there is a likelihood of it happening in the future.

Some couples choose to separate and remain separated instead of divorcing, even though the marriage can’t be salvaged. If done for financial reasons, it is usually to maintain and preserve health care coverage, social security benefits or military benefits.  When this occurs, attorneys may recommend executing a legal separation agreement. This agreement establishes a temporary division of assets and debt, spousal and child support, and visitation on a short-term basis.

While there are some situations where it is beneficial to legally separate instead of divorcing, in Hawaii, legal separations are limited to two years after which the separation agreement automatically ends. At this time, the couple is still considered legally married, effectively ending any agreements regarding all financial support, child custody, and division of assets.

For religious reasons, some spouses prefer an annulment of the marriage instead of a divorce.  However, there is an annulment under a specific religion is not the same as a legal annulment.  In Hawaii, the qualifications for a legal annulment are extremely limited and are considered only in cases of incestuous marriage, underage marriage, bigamous marriage, mental incapacity, fraud or coercion and concealed “loathsome” disease.   

The legal team at PMK can assist with your questions regarding legal separation, annulment or divorce. We will help you explore all your options and explain your rights under the law so that you can make informed decisions that protect your best interests.

Alimony and Spousal Support basically refer to the same concept. Generally, the higher-earning spouse can be ordered to provide the lower-earning spouse with financial support during and after the divorce. The method for determining the amount and duration of spousal support differ by state and a judge usually makes a final ruling regarding how much support will be given and for how long.

There are three common types of spousal support that can be requested and awarded:

Pre-decree temporary spousal support is a regular monthly payment made by one spouse to another during the divorce proceeding. The payment amount is defined and exists for a finite period of time, ending when the divorce case is settled and more long-term spousal support – if any – is granted.

Post-decree spousal support is a defined payment amount typically paid to the lower-earning spouse for an established period of time to help them maintain a lifestyle that is comparable to the financial standard of living they had during the marriage. The amount and duration can vary and are subject to modification after the divorce is finalized if changes warrant.  While it is long-term, it may not be forever. Support will end if the ex-spouse receiving spousal support remarries, either ex-spouse passes away or there is another significant financial change for either party that a judge decides is enough to justify a change.

Rehabilitative spousal support is granted when one spouse stopped or reduced the amount of time they worked during the marriage, usually to allow them to be the primary care-giver of children in the home. There is an expectation that the spouse will eventually work again and not remain dependent on their former spouse to pay all of their expenses after the divorce. This money is typically used to pay for educational or vocational expenses to improve income earning capacity and achieve financial independence.

The legal team at PMK is here to assist with questions regarding spousal support or divorce. We will help you explore all your options and explain your rights under the law so that you can make informed decisions that protect your best interests.

In these times of dynamic change, PMK is prepared to provide legal services regardless of Family Court accessibility. PMK is continually monitoring whether courts are open, when and how trials will proceed, as well as providing legal alternatives to the sometimes-uncertain court process.

PMK will continue to offer services in the event of a Family Court shut down to resolve disputes in divorce, child custody and child support through alternative dispute resolution. Options include direct negotiations, mediation and, when issues cannot be agreed, achieving a final decision through binding arbitration.  While all agreements will need to be finalized through the court system, achieving a practical end to your case is achievable regardless of delays in court availability

Even during these difficult times, there are still opportunities to achieve resolution for your divorce and child-related concerns.  Contact the legal team at PMK , we can help you explore all options and explain your rights under the law so that you can make informed decisions that will protect your best interests.

The global pandemic is creating turmoil and uncertainty in almost all facets of our lives. The justice system is not immune from unpredictable changes. It’s difficult to know when you’ll have access to court services to get relief and closure.

So how do you mitigate possible delays and uncertainty? If you’re going through a divorce, you can use an alternative dispute resolution option, such as arbitration. Working with your spouse and an arbitrator can also be faster and less expensive than a Family Court trial.

Arbitration is most useful when the parties are unable to reach an agreement and the procedural requirements for a Family Court trial would be too costly or problematic. In arbitration, an unbiased, mutually-agreed upon decision-maker – usually a family law attorney – acts as a private judge, or arbitrator, to resolve the disputes in the divorce that stand between you and finality.

Each side presents their position and is allowed to present the arbitrator with documents and/or testimony in support of their requests. After hearing from both parties and any related witnesses, and reviewing all supporting documents, the arbitrator issues a binding decision.

Arbitration has many advantages – In addition to choosing the decision-maker, as well as the time and location of the trial, arbitration also allows less formal proceedings with no time limit (unlike the limits of the courthouse) and you’ll receive a written decision in as few as 15 days, as compared to a judge’s decision which may take weeks or months to return.

The family law team at Porter McGuire Kiakona, is ready to answer your questions and guide you through the divorce process in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.