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Hawaii Child Custody
Child Custody in Hawaii

According to Hawaii Revised Statutes 571-46, "the court shall be guided by several standards, considerations, and procedures. Custody may be awarded to either parent or to both parents according to the best interests of the child."

Child custody laws in Hawaii are complex. Hawaiian parents seeking custody of their children need to understand the child custody laws to get the custody arrangements they want. Child custody depends on a body of case law that has been worked out over decades, not specific legal statutes enacted by the legislature.

Legal custody refers to which parent is allowed to make major decisions about schooling, healthcare, and religious instruction for the child. Physical custody refers to which parent a child lives with. Custody may be sole or joint depending on the family dynamics and interaction between the child and the parents.

Joint custody can either be joint legal custody or joint physical custody. By law, the court selects the primary custodian with whom the child should live. However, this does not mean that both parents have equal physical custody. Sole legal custody means that one parent has exclusive rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child's health care, schooling, and religion. The courts may grant joint custody if deemed appropriate and helpful in raising the child. In Hawaii, the court considers whether custody should be awarded to either parent or both parents. If the child is of a sufficient age and capacity, the child's wishes will be considered.

When parents disagree on terms of raising a child, the court intervenes and decides custody of the child. The child custody arrangement can be in the form of legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, or joint custody. When necessary, the court may ask for an expert or a person who has enough understanding of the issue at hand to determine the best interests of the child.

Hawaii courts strive for an arrangement that promotes and fulfills the well-being of the child. In making such determinations, the family courts of Hawaii do not award custody based on the parent's gender or wealth but on the best interests of the child.

In summary, parental arrangement is determined according to the overall best interests of the child.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Hawaii courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation. Unless the court grants a waiver, both parents must complete this requirement. Rather than give up an afternoon or evening taking your course in a crowded classroom, you can fulfill this requirement conveniently online at a very reasonable cost. We recommend you take Children in Between Online" to fulfill your court requirement and for the benefit of your children.

Modifying Custody Agreements

In Hawaii, the parties can ask the court to modify a custody order if some new information is discovered, or there is a question about the character of the guardian who retained custody. The individual who wishes to modify the order can reopen the case in the court. When the case is reopened, if possible, the judge who awarded custody hears the case.

Child's Preference

Hawaii does not allow children to determine where they would like to live, but the judge can consider a child's wishes, depending on the child's age and ability to make a rational decision.

Many judges feel that making a child "take sides" in a custody dispute is bad for the child. These judges often will not ask about a child's wishes.

Parenting Plans and Mediation

Parents who want to avoid the expense and emotional difficulty of a custody hearing may wish to come to an agreement about parental responsibilities. This agreement, called a parenting plan, is explicitly allowed by child custody laws in Hawaii and must be submitted to a judge for approval before it can be finalized.

Judges will sign off on any parenting plan that gives both parents frequent contact and agrees on all aspects of parenting, including what to do in the event of a dispute.

Parents who cannot come to an agreement for a parenting plan on their own may wish to voluntarily attend mediation. Child custody laws in Hawaii allow judges to order parents into mediation rather than a courtroom hearing. A mediator keeps discussions productive and helps parents negotiate constructively. Once the parents can agree on a parenting plan, the mediator drafts the plan so that the parents can submit it to the court.

Joint Custody Preference

The law in Hawaii permits parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case.

Third Party Custody

Sometimes a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, will try to gain custody of a child. In some instances, custody may be awarded to a third party if neither parent is capable of taking care of the child.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. If there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse, the court shall rule out the party who was the perpetrator of the misdemeanor from obtaining custody.

In general, if a parent has committed violent acts in the home, courts will be reluctant to award custody to that parent. Child custody laws in Hawaii allow supervised visitation if a parent poses a risk to his or her child's safety or well-being. Supervised visitation generally involves a family friend or relative sitting in while visitation occurs to make sure that the child is being cared for responsibly.

In Hawaii, the court investigates any situation where it appears that the welfare of the child is in danger. The court directs investigators or professional experts to conduct an investigation and report their findings. The court must consider this report when making decisions about child custody.


The Hawaii courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

Reasonable visitation rights should be granted to any parent or guardian in cases where the visitation rights would not be detrimental to the best interests of the child (or children) in question.

The Hawaii courts may grant visitation to grandparents or any individual concerned about the child's well-being.

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