Protecting Your Credit After Divorce

One of the primary functions of the divorce process is the division of marital assets and debts. In Hawaii, with few exceptions, all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered "marital" - regardless of whether acquired or held by one party or the other - and are thus usually divided equally between the parties during a divorce. During the divorce, the judge will often assign some of the debts to the husband and some to the wife, even though the debts may have been acquired in the other's name.

Here's a typical example: During the marriage, the parties purchased a vehicle by obtaining a loan in the husband's sole name. However, in the divorce, the Court awards the vehicle to the wife along with the liability for the unpaid balance of the loan. Because the Court can't order the lender to remove the husband's name from the loan, the loan remains in the husband's name, even though the Court awarded the car to the wife and assigned her the responsibility to pay off the loan. (Can you see where this is going?) After the divorce, if the wife fails to make a payment on the loan, it is the husband's credit, not the wife's, that will suffer because the loan is still in his name.

Another example is where, during the marriage, the wife used a credit card in her name to purchase household or other items. In the divorce, the Court ordered the husband to pay the credit card balance. If the husband fails to pay the balance, the negative entry will appear on the wife's, not the husband's, credit report.

Again, the Court cannot order the creditor/lender to remove the debtor spouse from the debt or reassign the debt to the other spouse. In obtaining the loan or credit card, the acquiring spouse entered into a legally binding contract with the creditor to pay the debt. The Court cannot modify this contract and order the creditor to let the spouse out of the contract. The best the Court can do is order the other spouse to pay the debt. However, as far as the creditor/lender is concerned, it is the contracting spouse who is liable to pay the debt.

The best way to protect your credit is to maintain control of the payments in the divorce proceeding. Thus, if your spouse is going to pay a debt that is in your name, have the Court order your spouse to make the monthly payments to you, not the creditor. That way, you'll know each month whether your spouse will timely make each payment. If your spouse fails to make the payment to you, you should consider making the payment yourself - even though the Court ordered your spouse to make the payment - in order to protect your credit. If your spouse refuses to reimburse you, you can then file a motion with the Court asking the Court to sanction your spouse for his/her refusal to make the payment. Sanctions can include fines, offsets against payments you owe your spouse, and/or attorney's fees and costs for having to file the motion.

Another proactive method of protecting your credit is monitoring your spouse's payment (or non-payment) online or by contacting the creditor. Be sure to check before the payment is due so that you can make the payment if necessary before the payment is considered late. As discussed above, you can then file a motion with the Court seeking appropriate sanctions.

Further, be sure to close or separate all joint accounts. Do not assume that your spouse will do so just because the Court ordered him/her to do it. Follow up with the creditor to be sure you are no longer responsible for the account.

You can also monitor your credit report at This website is operated as a collaboration between the three credit reporting agencies and the Federal Trade Commission. Federal law permits you to obtain one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the credit bureaus. Alternatively, you can purchase a credit report directly from the credit bureaus by going to their websites:;; and Of course, monitoring your credit report is not a proactive method of protecting your credit - it merely informs you of negative entries that the credit bureaus have added to your credit history.

Being proactive during the divorce process and after the divorce is the key and should help prevent negative entries from being incorporated into your credit history.

Moving to a New Location

We are very excited to announce that we are moving from to a new location because we have outgrown our existing offices. We are moving to a larger office suite located at the following address: Pauahi Tower 1003 Bishop Street, Suite 1110 Honolulu, HI 96813. Our contact phone number remains (808) 352-4917, and our e-fax number remains (866) 268-9207. Please feel free to stop by to visit us at our new location!

Supreme Court Justice Alito to Visit Hawaii

Members of the public are invited to hear U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. address the Hawaii State Bar on January 26 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. His presentation on the "Top Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Supreme Court" will be held at the Hawaii Supreme Court Courtroom at 417 South King Street.

Justice Alito is this year's William S. Richardson School of Law's Jurist in Residence. The program, instituted in 1987, enables University of Hawaii law students and the community to exchange ideas with the country’s leading jurists.

Hawaii Supreme Court's Newest Chief Justice

The Hawaii State Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Mark E. Recktenwald for Chief Justice.

Justice Recktenwald succeeds Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon to become Hawaii’s fifth Chief Justice. He will serve an initial 10-year term as the head of the State’s highest court, while overseeing the Hawaii State Judiciary.

Recktenwald joined the Supreme Court last May when Governor Lingle appointed him to replace retired Associate Justice Steven Levinson.

Hawaii Legislature Approves Civil Unions - New Family Law Issues in the Making

In a dramatic last-minute reversal yesterday, the state Legislature sent Governor Linda Lingle a bill legalizing civil unions between any two consenting adults (whether same-sex or not).

House Bill 444 allows any adult couple the same rights and benefits the state provides to those who marry. If the Governor signs the measure, Hawaii would be one of six states giving all the rights of marriage to consenting adults, including same-sex couples, but without calling it marriage. She has not indicated whether she will sign or veto the legislation.

The House vote came yesterday evening after an afternoon spent in caucus and marked with procedural votes that showed supporters had a 31-vote majority with 20 opposed. Thirty-four votes are needed to override a veto.

Island faith leaders reacted to the bill's passage with jubilation or dismay, reflecting conflicting religious beliefs that have heated political dialogue on gay rights for decades. The Rev. Marc Alexander, vicar general of the Catholic diocese, said, "We are disappointed, and we hope and pray the governor will veto the bill, both because of the content—which is marriage in disguise—and because it is poor legislation."

The Rev. John Heidel, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii, said, "We have a great sense of relief and happiness for all of those people in our community who, in the past, have been denied their civil rights and who can now enjoy full benefits of citizenship."

Catholic Bishop Larry Silva sent lawmakers a letter earlier commending them for not passing the bill and emphasizing the importance of marriage as a union between a man and a woman as "a human institution that goes beyond all religious affiliations."

Legislative opponents from the first vote warned yesterday that even taking the bill up again was political suicide. "This is unfair and untimely," said Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai), who voted against the bill. "This is going to cause chaos in the community."

Now the bill's fate lies with Lingle, who was en route home from California last night.
The measure has a convoluted history. On the final day of the Legislature last year, the bill was pulled from a deadlocked Senate Judiciary Committee, then it was amended, meaning it could not pass in the time allotted. But in January the Senate passed the bill 18-7. The House then postponed a decision "indefinitely" on a controversial voice vote, ordered by House Speaker Calvin Say. The essentially anonymous vote caused both opponents and supporters to criticize Say for hiding the vote. Yesterday's action was seen as a reversal.

"We are supposed to do what is right instead of worrying about re-election," said Sen. Michelle Kidani (D, Mililani-Waipio). But there are likely to be political repercussions. Kidani acknowledged that campaigning this year "will be more difficult."

Father Faces Jail Time for Taking Daughter to Church

A Chicago man who defied a court order and took his toddler to a Catholic Church service was arraigned today on a charge of indirect criminal contempt in a custody battle that is threatening to put him in jail and draw new boundaries in divorce cases.

Joseph Reyes pleaded not guilty for allegedly violating a court order issued by Chicago family law Judge Edward R. Jordan who had barred Reyes from taking his 3-year-old daughter to church following a dispute over religion with his estranged wife. Reyes' wife, Rebecca Reyes, is Jewish. If found guilty of indirect criminal contempt, Reyes could be sentenced to up to six months in jail. The next court date is on March 3, when Reyes is expected to file a motion to dismiss all charges against him.

In a statement issued after the hearing, Reyes said, "There's a strong possibility I could end up in jail. It's really sad it's come to this."

Reyes and his wife are in a bitter divorce battle, and the question of what faith their child should be raised in is pushing the boundaries of child custody arrangements. Reyes' decision to baptize his daughter without his wife's permission resulted in what some are calling an extraordinary court order: Jordan in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., imposed a 30-day restraining order forbidding Joseph Reyes from, according to the document, "exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion. …"

The couple married in 2004. Joseph Reyes was Catholic, but he converted to Judaism to please his in-laws. He has said the decision wasn't "voluntary." Despite his conversion, Reyes, 35, said he never stopped practicing Catholicism. When the marriage fell apart, Rebecca Reyes, 34, got custody of their daughter. The girl, now 3, has been raised Jewish and attended a Jewish preschool.

Her father decided to baptize his daughter without consulting his wife. Joseph Reyes sent his wife pictures and an e-mail documenting the occasion. Rebecca Reyes responded by filing for the temporary restraining order, which the judge granted.

"Number one, it wasn't just a religious thing per se, it was the idea that he would suddenly, out of nowhere without any discussion … have the girl baptized," Lake said. "She looked at it as basically an assault on her little girl." Furthermore, Joseph Reyes had never been a particularly devout Christian, Lake added.

When the girl's father took her to church again in violation of the order, he called the media to witness the event. A court could rule today on whether Reyes should be jailed for criminal contempt, but he contends he did nothing wrong.

"Going to church, I don't think I violated the order," he said. "In terms of Judaism, based on the information I was given, Catholicism falls right under the umbrella of Judaism."

What Are Pre-Marital Agreements?

Before getting married, many couples are now choosing to enter into premarital agreements. Premarital agreements, also known as pre-nuptial or ante-nuptial agreements, were once reserved for Hollywood stars or celebrities. However, over the last decade, it has become more and more common for a spouse to sign a premarital contract with his or her future spouse.

Most people believe that premarital agreements are only meant to allow both parties to keep their own assets if the marriage fails. However, a premarital agreement can also provide children the right to receive the assets, or a large part of them, if both parents pass away. One of the main purposes of a premarital agreement is to work out all of the divorce details rather than leave these potential issues unresolved.

The increasing number of premarital agreements can be seen as an indicator that couples acknowledge their marriage has a fifty percent chance of ending up in divorce and prefer to reach an agreement prior to marriage in order to prevent future disputes.

A premarital agreement must contain a thorough written disclosure of both parties' assets and liabilities brought into the marriage. Additionally, the agreement must stipulate how earnings during the marriage will be shared in case of divorce. Eventually, the parties should be given enough time to thoroughly review the agreement; to allow time for review, couples are seeking more advice about premarital agreements and are discussing possible agreements well in advance of the wedding.

If you decide to enter a premarital agreement with your future spouse, you should consult an attorney. In Hawaii, premarital agreements are enforceable only if they adhere to state law.

The Hawaii Family Court is Moving to Kapolei.

From the Honolulu Advertiser, October 6, 2009

Nine O'ahu Family Court judges and their support staffs will be moved to the new $100 million Kapolei Family Court early next year. The project also includes a new juvenile detention facility to replace the undersized and aging detention home on Alder Street in Honolulu. The Judiciary plans to move the court and leave behind a "triage" judge assigned to work in Honolulu to hear emergency matters and process time-sensitive paperwork, including requests for restraining orders against violent household members.

Some local attorneys believe that the transfer of most or all of the Family Court services to Kapolei, due principally to transportation and other problems greatly exacerbated by a very bad economy, will gravely damage the ability of the Family Court to provide justice to the many, many thousands of Hawaii's families and children who are entitled to, and need, the protection of the Family Court.

The court handles divorces, child custody matters, restraining orders, juvenile and other family criminal proceedings, paternity disputes and a host of other issues involving the most sensitive and personal of legal problems.

Each year the Family Court serves over 200,000 parents, children and others. In the last fiscal year alone there were over 19,000 new filings in the Family Court. Nine Family Court judges on O'ahu handle more than 2,000 new cases each year, and every new case is important.

Critics say that transferring all that activity to one end of the island, without leaving resources closer to the center of Honolulu, will work a terrible hardship on families. "The real economic harm will be suffered by those unrepresented and by the less-established practitioners, whose clients may not have the same economic resources as ours do."

Chief Justice Ronald T. Moon explained the plans for the "triage" judge who stays in Honolulu to handle some Family Court functions are still "a work in progress." All Family Court judges will be in Kapolei, and early plans were to assign a lower court or part-time judge to the triage work. Budget restrictions "have complicated these plans," Moon said.

Document filings will be accepted in Honolulu for Family Court matters and a document "courier service" will be established between the old and new courts, he said. And two Honolulu courtrooms "will be upgraded with computer communication technology to facilitate video conferencing and video on-record appearances between Honolulu and Kapolei," he said.

Kids First, the family court's education program for divorcing parents and their children, will take place on alternating weeks at Kapolei and at the downtown Circuit Court complex, according to Moon. Now it is held Downtown every Wednesday afternoon.

Doctor Loses Stake in (Former) Kidney

A court has rejected a New York surgeon's claim that he should get US$1.5 million in his divorce settlement because he donated a kidney to his wife Robert Batista made headlines in January 2009 when he held a news conference and demanded that his estranged wife either return the kidney or give him $ 1.5 million. Dr Batista claimed he was entitled to the compensation as his wife had denied him visits with their three children. In a 10-page ruling, the judge concluded that Dr Batista’s claim was without merit. The court ruled the kidney, which was donated in 2001, was a gift.

25 Secrets to a Happy Marriage, by Laurie Israel, Esq.

As a practicing divorce attorney and divorce mediator, I've met a number of couples that, if they had been given some good advice (and had remembered that advice) a few years or even months earlier, they would not be divorcing. Consider the following:

1. Think before you speak. People in marriages tend to have very "hot" buttons causing frequent arguments. One reason for this is that the boundaries that exist at the workplace or with friends and relatives do not exist in a marriage. Much of marital bickering can be lessened or mitigated if you wait before you respond to something that has made you angry. If you think for even five seconds before you respond, the amount of marital bickering will be greatly reduced. It may be better to discuss the difficult issue on another day when the emotions are not so high. You can broach the topic (at that later time) by saying, "Dear, I have some unfinished business to discuss with you. May we discuss it now?"

2. Don't give up. If you ask any married person, he or she will tell you that marriages wax and wane. There are good times, bad times, and even middle times. A marriage is viable if the good outweighs the bad, even by a little bit. Appreciate the good and try to let the bad roll off of you like water from a duck. The more you stick to it, the easier it will get and the more fondness and connection you will feel towards your spouse. You will also feel good about yourself, because you worked very hard to achieve something of value.

3. Give your marriage as much (if not more) focused attention than you give your hobbies. People spend huge amounts of time, money and effort on their off-work interests. But when a marriage is making them feel bad, everybody seems to "throw up their arms" and decide that it's useless to try anymore. Actually, reading books on marriage, conflict resolution, and communication techniques will help your marriage. Getting your spouse to read them is even better, but not necessary, to being able to make huge positive changes in your marriage.

4. Treat your spouse better than you treat anyone else. Did you ever hear the expression "familiarity breeds contempt"? This seems to apply in marriages. As a result, the unfortunate truth is that people tend to treat their spouses worse than strangers. An example of this is the all-too-common behavior of treating the spouse (sometimes ever so subtly) with contempt. Who is this person you are married to now? And who was that wonderful, beautiful perfect person you married so many years ago? Believe it or not, it's the same person. Remember those times and retrain yourself to view your spouse with the utmost respect and treat your spouse accordingly.

5. Have separate interests. Make sure you have some private space and give your spouse some too. Marriage entails a lot of togetherness, but just because you're married, you don't need to be joined at the hip. Make sure each of you has time away from the other with friends, family, or alone. Enjoy your separate interests. Having separate time and interests will help vitalize the marriage.

6. Foster and encourage your spouse's dreams and goals. In a successful marriage, one spouse is happy for the other spouse's successes. Good spouses foster the other in achieving their goals. Sometimes goals are scary and need to be carefully evaluated, such as a career change. Do the work together, so that each of you can become satisfied with your own life. Good spouses help each other make the most out of his or her life.

7. Find things you enjoy to do together. A marriage is a partnership. If you both have totally separate interests, you will eventually grow apart. Make time to pursue interests together. These leisure activities and interests will probably change over time. Find shared interests, pursuits, and enjoyment. But remember, you don't need to share all interests.

8. Don't think its greener on the other side. Most people who leave their marriages for someone else almost always find the same problems on the other side. Many realize where their first marriage went wrong, and how they (and their spouse) could have worked to fix it. With hindsight, many people regret not having worked things out in their first marriage. Remember, when you get divorced, you now have two problems - the problems in your marriage (that you did not solve) and the divorce.

9. Give each other a break. Don't be overcritical of your spouse. Don't carp all the time. The stark realization that comes after the wedding is that you are not the same person. But that's not a bad thing. Try to appreciate your differences. Admittedly, this is hard to do, but try. It's worth it.

10. Don't sweat the little things. As in the world of work, it is important to have priorities. Spouses get angry when criticized over every little thing. Try to prioritize the important things that you want. Carefully pick your battles. Let the other stuff slide. Don't be a nag and complain about every little thing. If you don't like something hold your tongue. Try to roll with the punches.

11. If your spouse loves something (like his/her mother, or football), try find out why, and you'll find you'll love it too. Give your spouse credence and respect your spouse's judgment, interests, affinities, and opinions. If your spouse is drawn to certain people or things, there is probably a good reason. Ask your spouse to explain. It might open up a new world to you.

12. Compliment your spouse every day, at least once. This leads towards a healthy relationship, and it is the right thing to do, because unless your spouse is a total slouch, he or she is doing many good things every day. Thank your spouse for all the wonderful things your spouse does for you and your family. Make sure your spouse knows that you appreciate his or her efforts.

13. Work hard with your spouse to create financial security. One of the beneficial effects of marriage is the creation of a strong economic joint venture. As your financial security builds up, it will be one of the things that allows you to feel good about each other and the world. It will also be a measure of the good work you've both done during your marriage. Financial security is a good thing and provides the foundation of a happy life.

14. Be your spouse's partner. Keep each other informed as to activities you are engaged in, including your work days and what you do at home. The time you spend separately outside in the world every day is very significant. Always talk to each other at the end of the day about how your respective days have been. Respect and show awareness of and curiosity about your spouse's separate interests.

15. Always assume the best of your spouse. People have misunderstandings and miscommunications. This is true even of people who know each other very well, such as spouses. If you spouse's actions displease you, wait a bit, and then try to find out the motivation. You might well find that the motivation was meant to be constructive and not negative, and that you may have made the wrong interpretation or assumptions about what had been said or done.

16. Give your spouse a treat occasionally. Spouses have different things that make them feel good. If you know something that your spouse likes, give it to them sometimes even if you don't care for it. It can be a small thing: a trip to the movies, a ride to a place your spouse likes to go, or maybe a favorite food bought from the grocery store. Be generous to your spouse, even if it is not in your nature.

17. Don't fight with your spouse about the kids. Disagreements about children can be very corrosive to a marriage. Have your discussions off-line so that your children do not know you disagree. Get professional help if needed as to how to coordinate and respect your different views. Don't let your disagreements about your children destroy your marriage.

18. Don't complain about your spouse to your friends and family. One complaint at a low time in your marriage will resonate with the listener long after the problem or the short-lived spat was resolved. Your family and friends will always see your spouse in the same bad light in which you saw your spouse during this period of conflict. If you need to talk with someone about your marriage, choose an independent professional.

19. Be faithful and do not have an affair. A couple that is unattractive (physically or otherwise) is actually really lucky in a marriage because outside forces will not be as strong. However, if you or your spouse is unlucky enough to be attractive, don't take the bait. It never works out. If you can't resist having an affair, end your marriage first. When you actually think about it, you'll probably find that you can't end your marriage and things will have gotten better.

20. Find ways to enrich your lives. Learn and do new things together. In good marriages the spouses are always changing, growing, and developing new interests. Make sure that some of these changes and new interests are shared jointly, so that you can spend good time together developing as people.

21. Spend time together with mutual friends. Outside friendships pursued by the couple jointly are very good for marital health. The outside friends can be single people, or other couples. It does not matter. The important part is that you and your spouse share these friendships together.

22. Forgive each other. If you hold grudges, you'll never get anywhere in marriage. Every spouse (even you!) makes mistakes and treats the other poorly at time. You must be able to forgive your spouse for the wrongs done to you and move on. Remember that the next time it may be you who needs to be forgiven. Marriage is very long. There are bound to be many bad things to happen between you. Do not hold onto these things. Forgive and move on.

23. Appreciate each other's contributions to the marital venture. Marriages often fail because of perceived differences in the level of contribution of each party. Try to appreciate the other person's contributions, whether financial or keeping the household together. Try not to impose your standards of how things should be accomplished on your spouse. Be appreciative of your spouse's efforts at all times.

24. Be secure in the fact that marriage is forever. Marriage is a safe container for people to work out all their personal issues. Because it does not end (except by death), a person can have the security that any mistakes, personality flaws, misspoken words, can be forgiven. There is something about the alchemy of two people with a "forever" commitment that helps people find peace and satisfaction in life.

25. Don't think that marriage is easy. One of the little-known but most important paradoxes about marriage is that it is an incubator for self-growth and self-awareness. This is a surprise to many, because marriage is supposed to be about the other person, or about the couple, or about "love". Take advantage of your chance to perfect your awareness and ability to enjoy life and relate well to other people. A good marriage will have this effect, and redound to your ability to function well in the world and live at your highest practical and spiritual level. Marriage is not easy. But it's worth it.

If you do all these things, and if, before you break up, you wait at least as long as you have been already married for roughs spots to work themselves out, you will have a long, happy marriage.