Parents and their children have always shared a special bond, one so strong that states like Hawaii have put laws in place to help protect this relationship by supporting the rights of both parents and children. These same laws also protect families from government interference, unless there is an absolute need to do so. When family issues are brought into the Hawaii family law court system, it was once not uncommon to see court rulings favoring children’s mothers – more modern court decisions, however, have placed an increased importance on the rights of fathers and their roles in children’s lives.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
A child’s mother has traditionally been viewed as the most important figure in that child’s life, being a caregiver, nurturer, and supporter among other things. While a mother is an important figure in a child’s life, it is also important to remember the important role fathers play in children’s lives as well – fathers have shown to be important caregivers, nurturers, supporters, and disciplinarians in their own right while also playing a large role in the development of their child. Studies have shown that children who have fathers who are present, involved, and supportive see positive development of their language and social skills among a number of other positive effects including high academic achievement.
Establishing Paternity in Hawaii
Under Hawaii state law, when a married couple has a child, it is assumed the husband is the father, and both parents automatically assume the biological and legal parental roles. Often times, these situations do not lead to any paternity issues. When the couple is unwed, however, there is an apparent divide between being legal parents and biological parents. When an unmarried couple has a child, they need to actively engage the legal system to ensure the child’s biological father also becomes the child’s legal father through a process known as “paternity establishment.” Should this process not be completed, it is possible for the child to lose out on the legal benefits of his or her parents.
In Hawaii, there are three ways an unmarried couple can establish paternity for their child. First, both parents have the option to sign a “Voluntary Establishment of Paternity” form, given the mother has not been married or widowed for the previous 300 days. This form is often signed at the hospital after the child is born – both parents are instructed to read and comprehend the form before signing it in the presence of a hospital staff member. A copy of this form is then filed with the Hawaii Department of Health and is then transferred to the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). The CSEA needs this information to ensure children are monetarily maintained by their legal and biological parents.
The second option for establishing paternity in the state of Hawaii is for a party to bring a paternity action case to the court. Individuals, such as the child’s father, the mother, or a government official has the right to begin this legal process, and the plaintiff in the case, or the individual who began the action, must then file and serve a Complaint for Paternity – in cases where a government agency such as the CSEA serves the compliant, both the father and mother are named as defendants in the case. These cases are left in the hands of the judge, and he or she decides who the child’s legal and biological father is. Judges do have the option to order a paternity test, but they are not required to do so.
The final option for establishing paternity in the state of Hawaii is for the mother and alleged father to get married after the child has been born. Regardless of the method used to establish paternity, there are a number of motives why a mother and/or a father would want to complete this process. Some of these reasons include:
- Payment of child support should the mother and father not live together
- Father establishing his legal right to custody and/or visitation with the child
- Child has the opportunity to be exposed to both parents and create a bond with them
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
The “best interests of the child” standard is common practice in most states across the country, and Hawaii is no exception. When making decisions about Hawaii child custody and visitation, the judge follows this standard to ensure the decisions being made best benefit the child involved. Under state law, there is no preference for custody toward the mother or the father, so both parents have an equal right to custody and time with the child. Additionally, judges understand the importance of keeping both parents involved in a child’s life to help with overall growth and development.
“Custody” refers to physical and legal custody of the child. Physical custody refers to the parent caring for and is in charge of the child, and legal custody is a parent’s right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education, medical needs, religious upbringing, and other factors. Fathers have just as much of a right to both physical and legal custody as mothers do, and it is possible for them to be granted sole custody or joint custody with the mother. Judges take a look at a number of different factors when it comes to determining who the child’s best caregiver is.
Father’s Right to Child Support
In those child custody cases where one parent is named the “primary custodian,” meaning he or she has care and charge of the child the majority of the time, it is not uncommon for the “non-custodian” to be awarded visitation as well as ordered to pay child support. These financial payments to the primary custodial parent are meant to aid in the cost of raising the child, such as providing the child with food, clothing, and shelter as well as helping to pay medical and educational expenses as well. The amount of a child support payment is based on a number of different factors determined by the court system.
In cases where fathers are named the primary custodial parent, they have as much of a right to collect child support as mothers in the same situation. Additionally, fathers have the same access to child support enforcement help through the Hawaii state government as mothers would. Primarily, fathers who are looking for support in collecting their child support can contact the Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), which is a part of the state’s Attorney General’s office. This group is capable of implementing enforcement for parents who are not meeting their child support obligations.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
While it is clear that mothers and fathers have equal rights by law, it can often be difficult for fathers to understand exactly what their rights are and know how to enforce them. For fathers who are dealing with child custody or child support issues, it is important for them to seek the legal guidance of a father’s rights attorney specializing in family law for the state of Hawaii – these legal professionals can help fathers navigate the legal waters and ensure they get the time with their children that they deserve.
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