When a couple goes through a divorce, there are a lot of issues on the agenda. On top of having to put their lives back together during this process, they may also have to deal with the issues of child custody during a painful and emotional time. No parent wants to lose time with their children, so child custody cases are often emotionally charged and draining for all parties involved. In the state of Hawaii, the family court judge will always make decisions based on the best interests of the child.
Child Custody Laws in Hawaii
Every child custody case in the state of Hawaii is handled on an individual basis – just like no two people are the same, neither are child custody cases, which means they will need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the case, the judge will always begin the evaluation by determining what situations would be in the best interest of the child – this is always the top priority, regardless of what either parents’ wishes are, the child’s well-being comes first.
Types of Child Custody in Hawaii
Children’s health professionals and mental health professionals have expressed keeping both parents equally involved in the child’s life is an important part of their well-being and helps them to have a successful and fulfilled upbringing. Whenever possible, the Hawaii family court system will award parents joint custody in order to keep both parents involved in the child’s life. When considering a joint custody arrangement, the family court judge will review the following factors, among others:
- Have the parents or are the parents willing to develop their own parenting plan?
- Are the parents living or planning on living geographically close enough to one another to make a joint custody arrangement feasible?
- Do the parents have the ability to communicate and work together in order to co-parent the child or children involved?
- Do the parents have the ability to nurture and encourage a positive relationship between the child or children and the other parent?
- Is there any history of abuse in the background of either parent?
Guardian Ad Litem in Hawaii
Hawaii family court has the option of appointing a Guardian Ad Litem or an individual who will be responsible for representing the child and their best interests during the child custody case. This will generally only occur when the judge feels this representation is necessary and this individual will usually be an attorney or other legal professional. Guardian Ad Litem are usually appointed for child custody cases that have complicated circumstances or in which the conflict level is very high.
What Determines Child Custody in Hawaii
Should a joint custody arrangement not be possible, the court system will then appoint one parent to be the primary caregiver and the other parent will receive visitation time. Hawaii judges will then be tasked with evaluating each parent, looking at their characteristics, morals, financial stability, and willingness/ability to properly care for the child. In addition to these factors, judges will also look at the following information to make the best possible decision for the child:
- Each parents financial means to care for the child
- Each parents physical means to care for the child
- Each parents willingness to invest in the child’s education
- Each parents willingness to invest in the child’s medical care
- Each parents ability to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing
- Each parents willingness to follow the child custody agreement as it is outlined
Hawaii court judges are also willing to arrange visitation time for any individual who is interested in being a part of the child’s life, such as the family members of the non-custodial parent, grandparents and even close family friends. As long as visitation with those individuals will be beneficial to the children and the individuals have shown they are trustworthy, visitation in some capacity will generally be granted. Family courts in Hawaii are focused on the well-being of the child, and spending time with other individuals aside from their parents may very well help with a positive upbringing.
Child Custody Modification in Hawaii
In the state of Hawaii, it is possible for one or both parents to request a modification to their child custody arrangement. If both parents have discussed and agree to a modification, and it does not harm the child in any way, their request will generally be granted and the modification will become legally binding. Should only one parent wish to make a modification, he or she will need to submit the request to the court – at that time, that parent will carry all the burden of proof as to why the modification should be made and what benefits the child will see from a change in their schedule.
The points the requesting parent will need to prove to the judge will include:
- The request modification is needed due to a significant change in the parent’s and/or child’s circumstances that makes the current child custody arrangement hard to follow
- That the request for modification will benefit the child in some way
- That the request for modification will benefit the child in such a way that it will outweigh the disturbances they will experience from the change
It has been found that reoccurring disturbances to a child’s schedule or living situation can be detrimental to their well-being – because of this, Hawaii family courts will only honor a child custody modification if it is absolutely needed. This is why there is such a heavy burden on the requesting parent to prove the modification will be beneficial to the child in order to have their request approved.
Child Custody and Relocation in Hawaii
In many ways, modification and relocation requests are handled in the same way in the Hawaii family court system – if both the parents agree to the relocation of the custodial parent, then a judge will just need to sign off on the request in order to make it legally binding. If one parent is making the request for relocation, he or she will need to prove why the relocation is necessary and how the relocation will be beneficial for the child involved. Some of the areas of interest the judge will look at when reviewing a relocation request include, but are not limited to, the following:
- How old the child or children are
- The gender of the child or children
- If the child or children have any learning or physical disabilities that need to be accommodated
- The strength and dynamics of the relationship between the child or children and the custodial parent
- The strength and dynamics of the relationship between the child or children and the non-custodial parent
- Why the custodial parent is making the request for relocation
- What benefits the child or children will experience from the relocation, including any educational opportunities, better medical care, closer proximity to extended family members and so on
- Depending on the age of the child or children, who they would prefer to reside with (while the court will take this into consideration, it will not be the sole basis of their decision)