Hawaiian law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Hawaii, parents must submit a parenting plan to the court before their divorce is approved. If parents cannot agree on a plan, the court may order mediation (a dispute resolution process). If mediation is unsuccessful, parents must submit separate, proposed plans for the court to consider.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

Hawaii’s courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child. These factors include:

  • The child’s physical and emotional needs,
  • The child’s educational and developmental needs,
  • The child’s safety and welfare,
  • The importance of sibling relationships,
  • The physical and mental health of the parents,
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol abuse,
  • The parents’ conduct and character,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse, and
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate).

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. However, the court may order supervised visitation if there is evidence of domestic violence.

In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests. The court may also appoint a child custody evaluator (often a counselor or therapist) to investigate the claim.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan.

Should I Contact a Custody Lawyer?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced Hawaii child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.