Guide to Child Custody Laws in Hawaii
Hawaiian parents seeking custody of their children need to understand the laws involved in order to have the best chance of getting the custody arrangements they want. Child custody laws in Hawaii are complex and often depend on a body of case law that has been worked out over decades, rather than specific legal statutes enacted by the legislature. This guide will help you to understand the reasoning behind Hawaii's child custody laws so that you can continue researching on your own. Understanding the child custody laws in Hawaii is only a first step—you will need to see a lawyer or begin to work on a parenting plan with your ex-spouse before child custody arrangements can be completed.
Can a Child Decide?
Some states allow children over a certain age to determine for themselves where they would like to live. Hawaii does not allow children to make this important decision, although child custody laws in Hawaii do specify that a judge can take a child's wishes into account as one factor in awarding custody, depending on the child's age and ability to make a rational decision.
Many judges feel that making a child “take sides” in a custody dispute by asking to live with one parent or another is bad for the child. Since Hawaii uses the best interest of the child as the primary way of determining custodial arrangements, these judges often will not ask about a child's wishes.
Parenting Plans and Mediation
Parents who want to avoid the expense and emotional difficulty of a custody hearing and receiving a judge's custody order may wish to come to an agreement about sharing their parental responsibilities. This agreement, called a parenting plan, is explicitly allowed by child custody laws in Hawaii and must be submitted to a judge for approval before it can be finalized. Generally, judges will sign off on any parenting plan that gives both parents frequent contact and agrees on all aspects of parenting, including what to do in the event of a dispute.
Parents who cannot come to an agreement for a parenting plan on their own may wish to voluntarily attend mediation. Child custody laws in Hawaii allow judges to order parents into mediation rather than having a courtroom hearing. A mediator will help to keep your discussions productive and help parents negotiate constructively. Once the parents can agree on a parenting plan, the mediator will draft the plan so that the parents can submit it to a judge.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to which parent is allowed to make major decisions about schooling, healthcare, and religious instruction for the child. Physical custody refers to which parent a child lives with. Child custody laws in Hawaii allow judges to award sole or joint custody for both types of custody.
In general, if a parent has committed violent acts in the home, courts will be reluctant to award custody to that parent. Child custody laws in Hawaii allow supervised visitation if a parent poses a risk to his or her child's safety or well-being. Supervised visitation generally involves a family friend or relative sitting in while visitation occurs to make sure that the child is being cared for responsibly.