Protection from Parental Disputes

Illustration of parents fighting over child
Parents fighting over child
The Family Court’s Protection from Parental Disputes seeks to limit children’s exposure to parents’ conflict

FAMILY COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT’S PROTECTION FROM PARENTAL DISPUTES

Child custody proceedings are often ugly, draw out processes that permanently scar families and children.  In an attempt to minimize the effect of parental conflict, the Hawaii Family Court of the First Circuit (Oahu) put together its “Protection from Parental Disputes.”  The Court frequently requests that the Protection from Parental Disputes language be inserted in divorce decrees and other custody orders, in hopes of lessening the impact on children of divorcing/separating parents.  Even if many parents forget or ignore the Protection language, if it improves just a small percentage of children’s lives in this traumatizing period, it is a worthwhile insertion.  If you are involved in a divorce or custody action, think about cutting and pasting or attaching the Court’s language (below) into your own document.

General Behavior of the Parties: Protection from Parental Disputes and Alienation The parties recognize that they can do much to minimize any possible negative impact of their divorce on the children. To this end, each of the parties agrees that he or she will always support the children in having the best possible relationship with the other parent. The parties further agree that:

  • a. Neither parent shall engage in, nor permit/encourage any step-parent, fiancee, significant other, grandparent, other relative or other associate, to criticize, disparage, demand, insult, or otherwise “bad-mouth” the other parent, step-parent, significant other, or grandparent to the children or in the presence or hearing of the children. This prohibition shall apply even to information that is truthful and accurate.
  • b. Neither parent shall fight (verbally or physically) – in person or by telephone – in the presence or hearing of the children.
  • c. Neither parent shall align or attempt to align the children against the other parent (or other relative), nor allow or encourage anyone else (including relatives and friends) to do so. Neither parent shall directly or indirectly ask the children to choose between parents, to choose to reside with one parent instead of the other, or to choose one household over the other household.
  • d. Neither parent shall ask the children to pass orders or instructions or uncomplimentary messages to the other parent (orally or in writing). Complimentary messages are allowed, and encouraged.
  • e. Neither parent shall ask the children to “keep secrets from” the other parent or ask or encourage the children to lie to the other parent about events or persons the children experienced during a visit with the other parent, grandparent or relative.
  • f. Neither parent shall ask the children to “spy on” the other parent or the other parent’s lifestyle or household nor ask any detailed, “probing” questions about the other parent or lifestyle or household of the other parent.
  • g. Both parents shall encourage a positive parent-child relationship between the children and the other parent, and shall not say or do anything (including “grimace” or put on a “long face”) to adversely affect the children’s love for the other parent.
  • h. Neither parent shall interfere with the parent-child relationship with the other parent, and neither parent shall conceal the children from the other parent during the other parent’s period of responsibility.
  • i. In general they will always do whatever they reasonably can to ensure that there is as much consistency and continuity as possible in the manner in which a child receives guidance and nurturance in all areas of his or her life.

While inserting this type of language into custody documents will not necessarily stop this type of bad parenting behavior, it may show parents what types of behavior the Family Court finds acceptable.

Author: Gavin K. Doi

Gavin, a founding partner of Doi/Luke, was born and reared in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, graduating from McKinley High School, and receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in Denver, Colorado. Previously, Gavin worked with the Child Support Enforcement Agency and the AmeriCorps Domestic Violence Clinic. An advocate of pro bono legal work, Gavin volunteers time with Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii and the Hawai’i State Bar Association. In 2013, Gavin co-authored the book Child Custody Litigation and Settlements (Aspatore Books/Thomson West), penning the section "Working with Your Client Towards a Successful Child Custody Case." Gavin is a member of the Hawaii State Bar Association and the HSBA Family Law Section, and was presented with the 2002 Justice Award by the Hawaii State Bar Association, which honors one lawyer annually for their outstanding contribution to the ideals of justice. The Hawaii Access to Justice Commission honored Gavin in 2012 for his pro bono service to the community. Gavin has extensive experience in divorce, paternity, child custody, child support, restraining orders, and other family law matters, and has a Distinguished rating with Martindale-Hubble®/Lawyers.com, and an Avvo rating of 10 out of 10. He can be e-mailed at: gkdoi@islandlawyers.com .

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