PATERNITY IN HAWAII
WHAT IS PATERNITY?
Paternity is a legal determination that a male individual is the father of a child if the child’s parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth. Until paternity is established the child’s father does not have legal rights over that child. Besides establishing a father’s legal rights, paternity is often needed to establish custody and visitation as well as child support for that child.
HOW IS PATERNITY ESTABLISHED?
Paternity can be established in three ways: (1) the parents can get married after the child is born; (2) a Voluntary Establishment of Paternity document (often called a “VEP”) can be signed at the time of the child’s birth; or (3) a paternity petition can be filed in Family Court, starting a court case for paternity.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE PATERNITY IS ESTABLISHED?
Once paternity is established, a father then has custody and visitation rights over that child. The newly-established father may also have obligation to financially support that child, such as with child custody/visitation. Also, after the establishment of paternity, the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services (“DHS”) may have the right to pursue the father for reimbursement, if DHS has provided financial assistance to the mother and/or child. The mother of the child may also have the right to pursue back child support against the father.
WHAT IF THERE IS A DISPUTE AS TO WHO IS THE FATHER OF THE CHILD?
If there is a dispute as to whether or not the presumed father of the child is actually the child’s father, a DNA, or genetic test may be ordered by the Court. The genetic test will typically produce a result that clearly states whether that person is the actual father of the child. When a genetic test is given, DNA samples are generally taken from the mother, the presumed father, and the child. The results of the genetic test typically take about 4-6 weeks after DNA samples are taken from all the parties. Fortunately, in recent years the costs of DNA testing has dropped significantly.
WHAT IF I’VE BEEN SERVED WITH A PETITION FOR PATERNITY?
If you are served with a petition for paternity or a petition for custody, visitation and support orders, the petition will be attached to another document called a SUMMONS. The summons will have instructions as to what you need to do next, including filing a response to the complaint and showing up at a hearing.The difference between the two types of petitions are that a petition for paternity is filed in cases needing to establish paternity of the child as well as to set up custody/visitation/support orders; similarly, a petition for custody, visitation and support orders is filed in cases where the paternity/fatherhood is already established because the father had signed the Voluntary Establishment of Paternity at the hospital at time of birth, so the petition only seeks to set up custody/visitation/support orders (thus, this petition is often called a “VEP petition”).Typically, you do not have a substantial amount of time to do these things. The best course of action is to speak to an attorney, but whatever you do, you need to act quickly.
WHY DO I WANT TO FILE FOR PATERNITY?
If you are the mother of a child who does not have paternity established, the filing of paternity will allow you to establish custody, pursue current child support, and possibly back child support owed since the time of your child’s birth, birth expenses for your child, as well as medical insurance for your child.
If you are the father of a child who does not have paternity established, the filing of paternity will allow you to have legal rights, including possible custody or visitation rights, of your child, as well as child support orders.
Both mothers and fathers can benefit from the fixing of specific timesharing/visitation schedules for the child, avoiding messy disputes. We can help you file for the rights of both you and your child.
WHERE DO I GO TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT?
Child support can be modified at: (1) the Family Court (“judicially”); or (2) the Child Support Enforcement Agency (“administratively”). Pursuing a modification in the Family Court requires the filing of a motion (a request to the Court), while pursuing a modification at CSEA requires filling out an Application for Services with the Agency. There are plusses and minuses to both routes — going through the Family Court is usually faster, often is more complicated for unrepresented parties, and can bring in other non-child support issues, such as custody or visitation. Going through CSEA is typically slower, but is designed to be easier for people who are unrepresented, and is limited to discussing child support and medical insurance only.WHERE DO I START?
Prior to scheduling a consultation, it is very helpful to work on one of our questionnaires, to assist us in understanding your situation. Clicking below will download our Paternity Questionnaire, as well as the Paternity Financial Information sheet, in Adobe(R) Acrobat(R), or .pdf format:
If you do not have Adobe Acrobat(R) or Adobe Acrobat Reader(R), you can go to the
Adobe (R) website to get Adobe Acrobat Reader(R) for free.
WHAT CAN DOI/LUKE DO FOR ME?
If you are a father seeking to have your paternity/custody rights established, or a mother seeking to obtain custody/visitation or child support orders, it is important to discuss your options and possibilities with an experienced attorney.