CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION IN HAWAII
Child custody and child visitation are among the most stressful issues that people face in family law. You’ll find information and links on our site that may help you figure out your direction. Doi/Luke, Islandlawyers is located in Honolulu, Hawaii, and we have handled countless custody cases in divorces, paternity cases, temporary restraining orders, child welfare cases, and other types of proceedings over the last 20 years.
If you have questions not covered here, see our Legal Information page, or give us a call at (808) 593-2199 and schedule a consult – we’ll be happy to speak with you.
WHO GETS CUSTODY OF OUR CHILD?
Child custody and visitation in Hawai’i is based upon the best interests of the child. If you are involved in a custody dispute, you will hear this term many, many times. Simplified, it means that custody of a child or children is not given to a parent based on rewarding to that particular parent, or punishing the other parent, but rather focuses on what is best for the child. Two areas of custody need to be addressed: physical custody and legal custody.
• Physical custody
Physical custody is the type of custody that people normally think of when thinking about custody. Physical custody decides with whom the child primarily lives. Physical custody can be SOLE (the child lives primarily with one parent) or JOINT/SHARED (the child divides time between both parents), or a situation between those, where one parent has sole physical custody, but the other parent has a greater than normal amount of visitation (usually more than 143 days), which is often called EXTENSIVE VISITATION. If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is normally said to have visitation (see discussion on visitation below). Child support is based upon physical custody, not legal custody.
• Legal custody
Legal custody concerns who makes the major decisions regarding the child. Generally, this involves major medical, educational, and religious decisions for the child. Further, it includes issues such as who gives parental consent to obtain a driver’s permit, joining the military or getting married before age 18, or getting an underage work permit. Legal custody can be sole or joint. Note that legal custody does not affect child support — child support is tied in to physical custody only.
WHO HAS THE PHYSICAL/LEGAL CUSTODY – JOINT OR SOLE?
Both physical and legal custody can be awarded solely to one parent, or jointly to both parents. Regarding physical custody, for example, one parent may have sole physical custody with the other parent having visitation. Alternatively, the parents may have joint physical custody, with both parents have approximately equal time with the child(ren). Also, in the area of legal custody, one party may have sole legal custody, or the parents may have joint legal custody, sharing decision making authority over the child(ren). In the case of joint physical custody, there are a number of different ways that parents can equally share in their time with the children. This graphic shows some different examples of equal time sharing schedules.
IF MY SPOUSE/EX HAS CUSTODY – DOES THAT MEAN I HAVE NO RIGHTS?
This is a common misunderstanding among people involved in custody disputes. The truth is, however, that even if one spouse has sole physical and sole legal custody of the child, the other spouse still has rights as the child’s parent. Unless there is an adoption proceeding or a Child Protective Service action terminating that person’s parental rights, that person will always be the child’s parent. This means, among other rights, they are entitled to a relationship with their child, the right to visit with their child, the right to have phone contact with their child, and the right to have information about how their child is doing.
The end of the relationship between the adults does not, and should not mean the end of the parent-child relationship. It is unfortunate that many individuals become so caught up in their disputes that they lose sight of this.
Fighting over child custody, as any family lawyer in Hawaii will tell you, is one of the most contentious and ugly issues that divorcing/separating parents face. The cost is high in terms of money, stress to the parents, time, and stress to the child. It is important to remember that when the dust clears from any divorce or paternity custody fight, the two parents will still be the parents of that child, and will need to interact with each other for years to come.
IF ONE PARENT HAS PHYSICAL CUSTODY, WHAT KIND OF CONTACT DOES THE OTHER PARENT GET?
Generally, the parent who does not have custody receives reasonable visitation with their child. Often times, however, there are disputes as to exactly what is “reasonable.” Keep in mind that family courts, judges, counselors, and other child experts across the country believe that it is in children’s best interests to have BOTH parents actively involved in their lives, where possible. Visitation that exceeds 143 days per year is said to be extensive visitation. In some cases, a specific visitation schedule is spelled out, and in other cases, the specifics of visitation are left to the parents to work out themselves (i.e. by “mutual agreement”). While the Family Court has guidelines for visitation schedules, they are only guidelines, and a wide variety of schedules can be worked out. The fact is that the above Family Court guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. They were not issued by the Court intending to be “standard” visitation
WHAT IS SUPERVISED VISITATION?
Supervised visitation is an arrangement where the non-custodial parent’s visitation must be supervised by a third-party. Supervised visitation may be ordered where the non-custodial parent poses potential harm to the child or may be unable to properly care for the child. The third-party supervisor might be a relative or family friend, or might be the Parents And Children Together (“PACT”) Visitation Center.
RESOURCES FOR PARTIES TRYING TO RESOLVE CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES
Rather than resort to stressful and costly custody fights in Court, parents who are splitting up should consider other options to solve their dispute in a more amicable manner. These resources include:
- Mediation: a common alternative to Court, mediation is essentially negotiation between the parties, but with a “referee” – specifically, a mediator. A skilled mediator attempts to help the parties focus on resolving their problem (sometimes steering them away from the anger between them), and helping the parties come up with mutually acceptable solutions and options. Some parties find mediation through the Mediation Center of the Pacific, which is low-cost and staffed with volunteer mediators, while other parties hire professional mediators.
- Counseling: some parties find it helpful to try resolution with the help of one of the parties’ counselors, or a marriage counselor.
- Parent counseling: different from standard counseling, parent counseling helps two parents (usually parents who have significant difficulties getting along or communicating) to focus on setting aside their anger at each other, and making the best decisions for their child. Frequently, parent counselors meet with each parent separately, to minimize anger and/or confrontation. Similar to this is parent coordination, but parent coordinators typically are empowered to actually make tie breaking decisions when the parents are unable to do so; parent counseling does not involve the counselor making such a decision.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT PROBLEMS WITH MY CHILD CUSTODY OR VISITATION?
Doi/Luke is located in Honolulu, Hawaii, but have helped people throughout the State of Hawaii with their child custody matters. We are happy to sit down with you, to talk about your rights and responsibilities in child custody.
If you would like to talk to an experienced Hawaii family lawyer about your questions, or wish to set up a consult, please e-mail or call us at 593-2199. We’ll be happy to discuss your issues.