CHILD SUPPORT IN HAWAII
Child support has a significant impact on the lives of both parents and children, whether in a divorce, paternity action, or Child Support Enforcement Agency administrative case. You’ll find information and links on our site that may help you understand how child support works and what can be done to establish, modify, or suspend it. Doi/Luke, Islandlawyers is located in Honolulu, Hawaii, and we have handled countless child support matters 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.
BASICS OF CHILD SUPPORT
WHAT IS CHILD SUPPORT?
Child support is monetary payments made to the parent that has custody of the parties’ children by the parent that does not have custody. The parent that makes child support payments is commonly referred to as the “Payor” (or by the Child Support Enforcement Agency as “Responsible Parent” or “RP.”) The parent that receives the child support payments is commonly referred to as the “Payee” (or by the Child Support Enforcement Agency as “Custodial Parent” or “CP”. In situations where the parties have joint physical custody, or the non-custodial parent has visitation, a different child support calculation formula is used. See our Custody and Visitation page to read about joint custody and extensive visitation. Experienced Hawaii child support attorneys can help you whether you are paying or receiving child support.
HOW MUCH IS CHILD SUPPORT IN HAWAII?
The amount of child support owed in the different states is typically calculated by using a formula. In Hawaii, the State of Hawaii Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (“Guidelines” or “CSGW”), devised by the State, serves as the formula. The formula takes into account each party’s gross (before tax) monthly income, any amounts paid for the child(ren)’s medical insurance, and child care expenses. Amounts paid by the Payor for child support for other children is not built into the current CSGW As mentioned above, there are also Hawaii Child Support Guidelines for those who have joint custody, or who have extensive visitation.
The minimum child support under Hawaii law is currently $70.00 per child, per month. The parties may agree, or stipulate to a higher amount than the Guidelines indicates, but not agree to a lower amount unless there are exceptional circumstances agreed to by the Court. The reason for this restriction is that child support although usually paid to the Payee, actually belongs to the child(ren), and thus cannot be given away or declined by the Payee.
WHAT ABOUT MY OTHER EXPENSES? AREN’T THEY FACTORED INTO THE FORMULA?
The short answer is – generally no. As discussed above, the formula looks at the gross monthly incomes of both parties, then factors in medical insurance premiums and child care expenses. In situations where one party is also paying alimony to the other party, that amount will be factored in as well. The Court may take into considerations exceptional circumstances, including the need to support other minor children, but generally, the Court will NOT take into account other financial factors such as mortgage/rent payments, car payments, living expenses, etc.
WHAT ABOUT JOINT CUSTODY OR EXTENSIVE VISITATION?
Joint custody child support calculations are made where the parties equally share the time with the child or children. Child support typically occurs in this type of equal timesharing, unless both parties are making the same or roughly the same income. Effectively, equal timesharing child support is calculating what each parent would be paying the other, and offsetting the two amounts.
The extensive visitation calculation is a formula used where the non-custodial parent has more than 143 days with the child, but less than 50% of the time (50% of the time would be joint custody). The Child Support Guidelines for JOINT custody results in child support numbers that are considerably less than those for sole custody to one parent. The Child Support Guidelines for EXTENSIVE VISITATION results in support numbers that are less than calculated for sole custody, but more than calculated for joint custody.
HOW LONG IS CHILD SUPPORT PAYABLE?
Child support in Hawai’i is ordered for children up to the age of eighteen (18), and up to age twenty three (23) if the child is enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university, or in a vocational or trade school. Full-time, for purposes of child support in Hawaii, is viewed as the equivalent of 12 credit hours in school. There is recent Hawaii case law however, indicating that there are unusual circumstances in which support might be extended past age 23.
HOW ARE ADULT CHILDREN IN COLLEGE HANDLED?
If a child is post-high school education such as college/university or vocational school, and are living with the “custodial” parent (although as an adult, custody is not really an issue), then child support would simply continue, in most cases to the custodial parent. If however, the child in post-high school education is not living with the custodial parent, and instead living on their own (in a dormitory, for example), then it may be a situation where the child support should be routed directly to the child for their living expenses. Also related to this discussion is the handling of post-high school education costs such as tuition, school fees, books, and similar expenses. Sometimes this issue is addressed in the parents’ divorce decree or paternity judgment, but sometimes it is not (somewhat frequently, if the Court orders were done when a child was fairly young, the parties simply reserved the issue for later determination).
WHAT IS THE CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGENCY?
The Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency (“CSEA”) is a division of the Hawaii Attorney General’s office, that works to establish, modify, and enforce support payments for children. Additionally, CSEA serves as the clearinghouse for support payments, discussed below. CSEA should not be confused with the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), which is a federal department under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which coordinates/assists with the individual state CSEAs around the country (such as the Hawaii CSEA).
HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS MADE?
Under Hawai’i law, child support is made through wage assignment, which goes directly from the Payor’s paycheck to the CSEA who then forwards the payment to the Payee. This is the case for the vast majority of child support payments in Hawai’i. Payment may be made directly from the Payor to the Payee, but both parties must agree to such an arrangement in writing.
MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT
CAN I MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT?
Child support, after being established, is always eligible for modification, based upon:
- increases or decreases in the income of Payor or Payee;
- a change in the childcare expenses or the child’s medical insurance premiums; or
- a smaller number of children receiving child support (one or more of the children having become ineligible for support).
These factors, among others, may cause a change in the Payor’s monthly child support obligation.
WHERE DO I GO TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT?
Child support in Hawaii 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. (for more discussion, see our sectionn about filing motions to modify your child support rights under Modifying/Enforcing Your Orders)
ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT
HOW DO I COLLECT BACK CHILD SUPPORT OWED TO ME?
Missed child support payments accumulating over months or even years, can add up to very significant amounts (often referred to as support arrears or arrearage). Parents who are owed back support payments from the other parent, similar to the prior section regarding modifying child support, can pursue through (1) judicially, filing in Family Court; or (2) administratively through CSEA. While going through CSEA is free of charge, it often results in less aggressive repayment than going through the courts. CSEA does however, have certain weapons at its disposal, such as the ability to suspend drivers’ licenses and professional licenses, as well as the ability to withhold federal tax returns.
Pursuing the matter through courts can, if successful result in more aggressive repayment plans by way of obtaining a judgment for the child support arrearage, then garnishing the owing parent’s wages/salary to pay that judgment. (for more discussion, see our section about filing motions to enforce your child support rights under Modifying/Enforcing Your Orders)
DEALING WITH CSEA
People who have had to deal with CSEA regarding their child support in Hawaii already know what a frustrating experience this can be for the average person. Both payors and payees often have great difficulty in fixing their child support accounts, resolving internal CSEA problems, or even speaking to a live person with the Agency. In these instances, it is often invaluable to have experienced Hawaii child support attorneys who can help them navigate the confusing CSEA maze.
WHAT CAN DOI / LUKE DO FOR ME?
In serious child support matters, it is best to have experienced Hawaii child support attorneys to help you, if at all possible. At Doi/Luke, we have negotiated, mediated, and litigated countless child support matters, both simple and complex, and can help you in many facets of child support, including:
- understanding the Child Support Guidelines
- child support number: up or down?
- where to pursue a modification, in the Family Court or at CSEA?
- how do I collect back child support owed to me?
- what to do if CSEA is pursuing me for child support?
- and other issues
Doi/Luke is located in Honolulu, Hawaii, but has helped people with their child support issues throughout the State of Hawaii. Gavin previously worked for CSEA, and has extensive experience in resolving child support matters. Contact Gavin to discuss your child support.