*Laura endured years of abuse from her husband before she filed for divorce. It started when the children were toddlers; now they are teenagers.
“Something happened and he had a mental crisis,” said Laura’s primary advocate Paralegal Haunani Magalianes, Legal Aid Hilo Office. “She tried to work with him, but he never came back from it. The domestic violence became worse.”
When her husband disowned their two kids and abandoned them to live on the streets of Hilo, that’s when Laura knew it was time to separate and file for divorce.
“I had no idea where to start so I called Legal Aid for help,” said Laura. “The lovely Haunani helped me every step of the way.”
Laura reached out to Legal Aid in April. By then, her divorce papers were already filed, but her husband had not responded to the papers.
“She did not know what to do,” Haunani said. “All she knew is that she wanted to do the right thing and raise her kids in a wholesome and healthy environment. She was desperate for assistance and needed to get on with her life and her children’s lives.”
With the help of Legal Aid, Laura filed for a default motion which allowed her to proceed with the divorce without requiring any response or participation from her husband. The court granted her request and finalized the divorce in June, settling the division of all joint account and assets.
“Laura was extremely relieved,” Haunani remembered. “My clients, when they get divorced, they usually have tears of relief and give me huge hugs. That happens a lot here in Hilo. They don’t know what to do legally when they get to a certain point so when we are able to get things done for them it’s a big win.”
The consequences would have been dire for Laura had she not gotten a divorce. There was too much at stake for her and her children’s safety.
“This is why I do what I do - for ʻohana like Laura and her children,” Haunani said. “I want to help them feel secure and get them out of unsafe situations because there is no reason to not feel safe in their homes, to not feel safe driving the street and not feel safe at night.”
Laura is now happily raising her children and providing for them as a single parent. She is able to move forward and can sleep at night knowing they are safe.
“Due to Legal Aid’s help, I got divorced and now trying to better my life and my children’s,” she said. “Thank you for your help.”