We represent clients who are in the process of divorce. Sometimes mediators, masters, neutral experts, or arbitrators may be involved. We also prepare postnuptial agreements as an alternative to separation or divorce.
Since 1976 we have represented Hawaii’s divorcing spouses with more complicated financial issues. Utilizing negotiation, conciliation, mediation, collaborative practice, cooperative divorce, mastering, private judging, litigation, or some combination thereof, we have endeavored to perfect the art of divorce representation.
Our knowledge and experience equips us to successfully deal with any issue involving the divorce itself; jurisdiction over children, property, and the parties; custody of children; management and division of assets; allocation of debt; child support; education and health care; alimony; and the tax consequences of divorce.
We do not favor litigation except as a last resort. Generally, litigation is too expensive, risky, invasive, time-consuming, and destructive to be the preferred alternative. As advocates for our clients, we are first of all peacemakers, diplomats, and dealmakers. We always seek alternatives to litigation. At the same time, when the need arises, we are also skilled and experienced litigators.
We have been trial counsel in some of Hawaii’s most important divorces, including Tougas v. Tougas, 76 Hawai‘i 19, 868 P.2d 437 (1994), Eaton v. Eaton, 7 Haw. App. 111, 748 P.2d 801 (1987), Jones v. Jones, 7 Haw. App. 496, 780 P.2d 581 (1989), Aehegma v. Aehegma, 8 Haw. App. 215, 797 P.2d 74 (1990), Jackson v. Jackson, 84 Hawai‘i 319, 933 P.2d 1353 (App. 1997), and Carroll v. Nagatori-Carroll, 90 Hawai‘i 376, 978 P.2d 814 (1999).
Cooperative divorce is akin to collaborative divorce except that, in the event that a dispute persists after every good faith effort to resolve it agreeably, and the dispute must be resolved by the Family Court, or some authorized decision-maker, the spouses are not required to retain new attorneys.
In a cooperative divorce the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Guidelines for Professional Courtesy and Civility are mandatory, not voluntary. Thus, in a cooperative divorce involving financial issues, both spouses agree to:
- Respond promptly to all reasonable requests for information.
- Remain transparent in their financial dealings.
- Cooperate in the acquisition of financial information from third parties.
- Cooperate in the preparation of Family Court financial statements (Income and Expense and Asset and Debt Statements).
- Cooperate in the development of valuation evidence, including through the utilization of joint experts.
- Negotiate in good faith on all issues to find a mutually beneficial resolution of all disputes utilizing mutually agreeable negotiation processes.
- Mutually agree on the dispute resolution mechanism or mechanisms to be employed in the event a dispute must be resolved.
- In a cooperative divorce, at the beginning of the process, the couple selects both the negotiating model and the dispute resolution mechanism which they are most comfortable with.
The choices of negotiating models, which are all various types of ADR, include:
- Summary jury trial.
- Neutral evaluation.
- Nonbinding arbitration.
- Presentation to a focus group.
- Four-way meetings with the parties and their counsel.
The choices of dispute resolution mechanisms include:
- Litigation before the Family Court.
- Private judging.
- Binding arbitration.
Within cooperative divorce, if litigation before the Family Court is chosen as the dispute resolution mechanism, the choice is qualified as being cooperative litigation. The parties and their counsel will use their best efforts to present their issues to the court as efficiently as possible, including the use of stipulations wherever possible. In private judging privately retained retired judges or experienced divorce law practitioners determine the dispute as if it were presented to the Family Court, applying the normal rules of law and evidence. In binding arbitration, privately retained retired judges or experienced divorce law practitioners determine the dispute in a more informal process where the normal rules of evidence do not apply, and the normal rules of law may not either.
Hawaii enforces valid premarital agreements. Hawaii also enforces valid postnuptial agreements.
We represent spouses who wish to make a postnuptial agreement with their spouse in order to predetermine the legal rights of the spouses, and the rights of the heirs of the spouses, at such time as the marriage ends as the consequence of the death of one spouse, or as a consequence of a possible future divorce, to instead of an immediate divorce. In such an instance, a postnuptial agreement can also provide for the immediate transfer of assets between the spouses, to others, or to a trust, often in conjunction with the establishment of new estate plans for both spouses. In this way, a postnuptial agreement can be a viable alternative to divorce.
We do not represent prospective spouses in the negotiation and execution of premarital agreements. In our experience, in many cases the negotiation and execution of a premarital agreement can be counterproductive to the success of a marriage. We also have concerns about the inability to expeditiously enforce a valid premarital agreement, without lengthy and protracted litigation with respect to the voluntary nature of the original consent to it, and the adequacy of the financial disclosure at the time of its making.