Skip to Main Nav Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content

Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court

(Amended 03/16/15)

No. SCWC-13-0001498, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 12 p.m.

DORINDA HAMILTON, Petitioner and Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, vs. DAVID HAMILTON, Petitioner and Respondent/Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

The above-captioned case was set for argument on the merits at:

Ronald T.Y. Moon Judiciary Complex
Kapolei Courthouse, Waianae District Court Courtroom
4675 Kapolei Parkway
Kapolei, HI 96707-3272

Attorney for Petitioner and Respondent David Hamilton:

Rebecca Copeland

Attorneys for Petitioner and Respondent Dorinda Hamilton:

Peter Van Name Esser and Michael S. Zola

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 01/08/15.


[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Petitioner and Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee Dorinda Hamilton (Dorinda) and Petitioner and Respondent/Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant David Hamilton (David) individually filed cross-applications for writ of certiorari, seeking review of the ICA’s September 25, 2014 judgment, filed pursuant to its August 29, 2014 Memorandum Opinion. The ICA’s judgment affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the Family Court of the Third Circuit’s (family court) June 7, 2013 Divorce Decree.

This case arises from an appeal and cross-appeal from monetary decisions in the parties’ the Divorce Decree. The parties dispute the impact of a multi-million dollar inheritance received by David near the end of the parties’ marriage on the family court’s determinations of property division, alimony, and attorney’s fees and costs. The family court considered any inheritance funds remaining at trial to be marital separate property, credited David with capital contributions for any withdrawn inheritance funds, and deducted these contributions from the marital estate, thereby creating a marital debt that was split between the parties and resulted in Dorinda owing David an equalization payment. The family court also found valid and relevant considerations to justify an equitable deviation, crediting Dorinda with an amount equal to her equalization payment. In addition, the family court awarded Dorinda spousal support both during the pendency of the divorce proceedings and during a period of five years following the trial, and also awarded her attorney’s fees and costs.

The case presents an issue of first impression in this jurisdiction with regard to whether a premarital economic partnership (“PEP”) can include proceeds derived from an illegal business enterprise. The family court found that a PEP existed and determined that possible marital estate proceeds were derived from an illegal marijuana joint enterprise. On appeal, the ICA concluded that the family court’s finding that the parties formed a PEP was erroneous because it was based in part on this illegal business enterprise, and remanded to the family court to segregate the proceeds of the illegal business and to recalculate its property division and alimony awards.

In David’s application, he asserts the following issues on certiorari:

1) Whether ICA erred in affirming the Family Court’s decision that a premarital partnership existed even though the partnership was premised on an illegal business enterprise.

2) Whether the ICA erred in affirming the Family Court’s deviation from the Partnership Model based on David’s inheritance.

3) Whether ICA erred in affirming the Family Court’s award of temporary alimony to Dorinda during the pendency of the divorce because Dorinda was effectively awarded David’s inheritance.

4) Whether ICA erred in affirming the Family Court’s award of attorneys’ fees in Dorinda’s favor[.]

In Dorinda’s application, she asserts the following issues on certiorari:

1) Did the ICA commit grave error when it remanded this divorce case to the family court on a minor issue, without addressing the husband’s $3.5 million inheritance, which was critical to the rulings on property division and alimony?

2) Did the family court gravely err when it found wife incurred a debt to husband, payable by an equalization payment, when their marital partnership assets were insufficient to repay his capital contributions?

3) Did the family court gravely err when found [sic] equitable deviation could not be applied to marital separate property or the repayment of capital contributions from the marital estate, or permit the court to award any of the couple’s partnership assets to wife?

4) Did the family court gravely err when it declared husband’s inheritance marital separate property, credited him with capital contributions not used for marital purposes, and awarded him virtually all of the estate?

5) Did the family court gravely err when it failed to consider altering the amount or duration of alimony after wife received virtually none of the marital estate because of husband’s 2007 inheritance?