Getting ready to file for child custody in Hawaii? Before you do, you'll want to become familiar with the state's child custody laws so you'll know what to expect and how to best present your case in family court. Here's what you need to know about child custody in Hawaii:
Factors Used to Determine Child Custody in Hawaii
Family courts in Hawaii consider a number of factors when determining child custody.
However, the primary criteria for awarding child custody in Hawaii is the best interests of the child. In other words, the state looks first to what is best for your son or daughter, rather than what is most convenient or easy for you or your ex. Depending on your situation, this can either help or hurt your case. In addition, the courts consider the following:
- The child's relationship with both parents
- The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child
- Each parent's willingness to cooperate with one another and the court
- Any history of sexual or physical abuse
- Any history of neglect or emotional abuse
- Any history of past drug abuse by either parent
- Each parent's current and past mental health
Additional Factors That May Be Considered When Determining Child Custody in Hawaii
In some cases, the courts also weigh input from experts, character witnesses, and even the child. For example, the court may consider the following factors before making a child custody determination:
- The means to provide for your child. The court may ask for information about your family's living arrangements and/or each parent's ability to provide for your child's basic needs.
- The quality of each parent's relationship with the child. The court may ask for character witnesses in order to learn more about your relationship. What they're generally looking for is evidence of frequent, meaningful, and ongoing contact.
- Your child's wishes. Generally, the court will only formally consider your child's opinion as a factor if he or she is deemed old enough to form and convey a meaningful opinion. This typically begins around age 12 or later.
- The results of an external child custody evaluation. In some cases, a formal evaluation may be ordered by the judge. The evaluator usually visits both homes to assess the quality of care and then writes a report for the judge based on his or her findings. In some cases, the evaluator may also be asked to speak in court at the child custody hearing.
Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Hawaii
In the state of Hawaii, if the court finds evidence of domestic violence in the home, such evidence must be considered. In order to protect the safety of the child, the court will generally not choose to place a child in the sole custody of an accused abuser. However, the court may allow a parent accused of child abuse to participate in supervised visitation. In such cases, the court may also order one or both parents to participate in anger management or parenting classes.
Child Custody Modification in Hawaii
If you feel that the wrong decision was made about your case, or your child's needs have changed, it may be time to request a child custody modification. In Hawaii, the court will consider a custody modification if it is determined that the original child custody order no longer serves the best interests of the child.
For more information about child custody in Hawaii, visit the Hawaii Revised Statues website or speak with a qualified family law attorney in the state of Hawaii.
Edited by Jennifer Wolf.