Legal Memorandum: Partnership Model in Divorce Proceedings in HI

Issue: According to principles of the ‘Partnership Model’ is the post-divorce receipt of income or an asset determinative of whether or not it is nonmarital property in Hawaii?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Partnership Model; Divorce proceedings; Nonmarital property
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 248 P.2d 221; 868 P.2d 437
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2013


Under Hawaii law, courts have adopted the “Partnership Model” when dividing property and debt in divorce proceedings.  These principles generally require that, absent an agreement between the husband and wife, the marital estate will be equally divided.  To accomplish this, courts split the marital estate into three categories as described in Tougas v. Tougas, 76 Haw. 19, 868 P.2d 437 (1994):  (1) Premarital Separate Property, (2) Marital Separate Property, and (3) Marital Partnership Property.  Baker v. Bielski, 124 Hawaii 455, 460, 248 P.2d 221, 226 (Ct. App. 2011).  Marital separate property, though not technically part of the division of assets, is given some consideration in a divorce.

[A]lthough Marital Separate Property cannot be used by the family court to "offset" . . . the award of Marital Partnership Property to the other spouse, it can be used by the family court to "alter the ultimate distribution of Marital Partnership Property based on the respective separate conditions of the spouses." . . . Although the family court may allow Marital Separate Property to reasonably influence the division and distribution of Marital Partnership Property, it cannot award any Marital Separate Property to the non-owner spouse.


Id., 124 Haw. at 460, 248 P.3d at 226 (citations omitted) (emphasis original). 

In Baker, Bielski contended that the court did not properly allocate some of her husband’s commissions.  The commissions were not—as the court had characterized them—Baker’s separate property.  Bielski was concerned with two […]

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