When parents of children are not married, a civil suit can be brought to establish the biological parents of the child(ren), the parent(s) custodial (physical and legal) rights regarding the children, and the amount of child support to be paid (if any). A paternity case (sometimes referred to as custody case) can be just as complex and stressful as a divorce. Contact Wong Leong Cuccia, LLLC now to determine your rights and the appropriate steps to take in order to protect or invoke your rights. The best time to obtain legal advice is before you need it.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce, Custody and Child Support in Hawaii:
Q: What am I entitled to?
In a divorce, there are three financial considerations: child support, spousal support (also called alimony), and property division.
Q: How is Spousal Support / Alimony determined?
Alimony is less formulaic than child support. It is determined by a number of factors which are enumerated by statute. You can view that statute, Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 580-47.
Q: How is property division in a divorce handled?
Property division is based upon the marital partnership principles. The property division issues include the identification, valuation, categorization, and division of marital assets, and the allocation of marital indebtedness. Hawai‘i’s divorce property division law is unique among all of the 50 states. The system is complex and without precedent elsewhere, making it comparatively difficult to understand and apply. The Family Court applies the partnership model when deciding property division disputes in divorce proceedings. The Family Court has wide discretion to divide property according to what is just and equitable. However, each case must be decided on its own facts and circumstances. The division and distribution of property pursuant to a divorce need not be equal, it only needs to be just and equitable.
Q: How do I find out what assets or income my spouse/other parent of my child has?
Before you make a decision regarding divorce, it is helpful to know what assets and income your spouse has. If you do not currently know this information or have access to it, you may conduct formal discovery after a divorce case has started. Discovery is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties regarding relevant information pertaining to their divorce case. Discovery also enables the parties to know before a trial begins what evidence may be presented. It’s designed to prevent “trial by ambush,” where one side doesn’t learn of the other side’s evidence or witnesses until the trial, when there’s no time to obtain evidence. One common method of conducting formal discovery includes asking the other party to provide documentation related to their income or assets. Additionally, you may issue subpoenas to third parties (such as banks) to obtain copies of records related to the other parties’ finances. Finally, as part of the divorce process, each party is required to complete financial statements: an asset and debt statement and an income and expense statement. Both forms are available here: https://www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/courts/forms/maui/family_court_forms. Before you decide whether to conduct further formal discovery, at the very least, you should ask to see your spouse’s financial statements.
Q: How is child support determined?
Child support is awarded pursuant to the Hawaii Child Support Guidelines: https://www.courts.state.hi.us/child-support-guidelines. The guidelines are quite formulaic and are determined by a parties’ gross income, the timesharing of children between the parties and payments for childcare and the children’s health care coverage. In addition to child support, you should also consider payment for the children’s education, activities and uncovered healthcare expenses, as well as any tax implications related to claiming the children as dependents.
Child Support Enforcement Agency
The Hawaii State Child Support Enforcement Agency is a governmental agency that provides a system for payments and disbursements of court-ordered child support. With the Child Support Enforcement Agency you may also choose to initiate a child support case and an establishment of paternity case. Their website is very informative and provides some tools to assist you with obtaining and enforcing court-ordered child support payments. You should review their website and their frequently asked questions about child support, as well as instructions and the various forms available (http://ag.hawaii.gov/csea/forms-brochures/) before determining whether you need legal assistance regarding child support. http://ag.hawaii.gov/csea/faqs/paternity/
Q: What does child custody mean in Hawaii Family Court?
There are two types of child custody in Hawaii: “Physical custody” refers to where the child lives or sleeps. “Legal custody” refers to the parent who makes legal decisions for the child. Those are commonly encountered when making medical and educational decisions for the child’s. When referring to “custody” of the children, it is important to distinguish whether you are referring to physical or legal custody, or both.
Q: What is the likelihood I can get custody of my kids?
When determining a custody award, the Family Court must decide what is in the best interest of the child(ren). In doing so, the court will consider many factors.
Q: What are the factors for child custody in Hawaii Family Court?
Those factors are enumerated by Hawaii law Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 571-46.
The factors for child custody in Hawaii Family Court include:
1) Any history of sexual or physical abuse of a child by a parent.
2) Any history of neglect or emotional abuse of a child by a parent.
3) The overall quality of the parent-child relationship.
4) The history of caregiving or parenting by each parent prior and subsequent to a marital or other type of separation.
5) Each parent’s cooperation in developing and implementing a plan to meet the child’s ongoing needs, interests, and schedule.
6) The physical health needs of the child.
7) The emotional needs of the child.
8) The safety needs of the child.
9) The educational needs of the child.
10) The child’s need for relationships with siblings.
11) Each parent’s actions demonstrating that they allow the child to maintain family connections through family events and activities.
12) Each parent’s actions demonstrating that they separate the child’s needs from the parent’s needs.
13) Any evidence of past or current drug or alcohol abuse by a parent.
14) The mental health of each parent.
15) The areas and levels of conflict present within the family.
16) A parent’s prior willful misuse of the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) proceedings.
Additionally, if a court has determined that family violence has been committed by a parent, it is presumed that it is not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence.
Q: How old does the child need to be to decide which parent he or she wants to live with?
In Hawaii, there is no specific age for a child to determine which parent he or she wants to live with. Instead, the Family Court is tasked with giving a certain amount of weight and consideration to a child’s preference depending upon the child’s age and maturity. Essentially, the more mature and older the child is, the greater weight the Court will afford to the child’s preferred parent.