Legal Memorandum: Partnership Model in Divorce Proceedings in HI

Issue: Do the principles of the ‘Partnership Model’ require division of separate property in Hawaii divorce proceedings?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Partnership model; Divorce proceedings; Dividing 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). 


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