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Hawaii Annulments
Annulments in Hawaii

The courts of Hawaii rarely award annulments, but a successful annulment ends in a decree of nullity, the final court order that means a marriage is void. A divorce ends an existing, valid marriage; an annulment simply declares that the marriage never really existed.

The laws governing annulments in Hawaii are in 580-21-29; 572-1, 2.

The children of an annulled marriage are still legitimate and are entitled to inherit from their parents as if the parents were lawfully married. Thus, the judge decides custody, child support, and visitation too.

Courts in Hawaii lack statutory authority to award alimony or divide property or debts as part of an annulment case, nor can they award permanent alimony as part of an annulment because spousal support is only available to divorcing couples. However, in annulment cases based on fraud, the court may order the spouse who perpetrated the fraud to pay the innocent spouse a "just allowance for the support of the deceived spouse and family." This includes requiring the defendant to pay witness and trial fees incurred by the plaintiff.

Grounds

In Hawaii, grounds for annulment are:

  • incestuous marriage, when the couple is related to each other as ancestor or descendant of any degree, including half-brothers and half-sisters, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew;
  • underage marriage, when one or both spouses had been underage at the time of marriage;
  • bigamous marriage, when either spouse is still legally married to another living person;
  • incapacity, when one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to consent to marriage;
  • fraud, coercion or duress, when one or both spouses were forced into marriage;
  • concealed disease, when one of the spouses suffered from a "loathsome disease" and concealed that fact from the other spouse.

In an underage marriage, when one or both spouses had been underage at the time of marriage, a parent or guardian brings the annulment action. However, if the underage spouse reaches the legal age and continues to live with the older spouse, no action for annulment can be brought. In the case of incapacity, if the mental problem is permanent or ongoing, the sick spouse's guardian can apply for an annulment. However, if the mental problem has passed and the ill spouse has regained the mental capacity necessary to consent to marriage, the marriage cannot be annulled. When the wronged spouse who was forced into a marriage chooses to live with the wrongdoing spouse, the marriage can't be annulled.

An annulment may be sought on the following grounds within the specified time limits:

  • bigamy - anytime during either party's lifetime;
  • underage - until they attain legal age and freely cohabit as man and wife;
  • physical incapacity - within two years of marriage;
  • lack of mental capacity - until mental capacity is attained and parties freely cohabit as man and wife.

Procedure

Either spouse may petition for an annulment. The petitioner files a complaint in the family court of the circuit court where he or she has lived for at least the past three months.

In the complaint, the petitioner explains the grounds for the action and the relief desired. The annulment process officially begins with the filing. It includes requests about children, property, and financial needs.

The clerk issues a summons that is personally delivered to the defendant by an official process server.

The defendant must respond in writing within 20 days to the complaint or the plaintiff may receive a default judgment.

The court may order both parties to make full financial and property disclosures, refrain from spending money or diminishing assets except for regular living expenses, or even appoint a financial expert to make “special recommendations.”

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