A paternity case is like a divorce case for a couple who never married but had one or more children during the course of their relationship. A paternity matter begins when either the mother or father of a child files a Petition for Paternity asking the Court to adjudge that a specific person is the child’s father and to make orders regarding custody, time-sharing (or visitation), and child support. The Family Court can (and frequently will) determine whether child support is due and owing from the date of birth and the amount. Because of this, the non-custodial parent may leave a paternity hearing having a child support “arrearage” even though there was no child support order previously in place. Usually, if the parties resided together for a period of time, the Court will determine that the family was an “intact family” and therefore not award child support for that period.
Either parent has a right to ask for custody of a child. Unless the Court sees substantial problems in how the parties communicate, the court will usually award the parties joint legal custody of the child and require the parties to reach consensus regarding major decisions involving the child. Even though the court frequently defaults to joint physical custody, the court will consider many factors in determining whether to award one party or the other primary physical custody of the child or to award the parties joint physical custody with equal time-sharing. Some of those factors include: history of care-taking, the age of the child, the child’s physical and emotional needs, allegations of abuse, and a parent’s ability to provide a safe and appropriate home for the child.
Child support is determined by the Hawaii Child Support Guidelines unless a party can prove that one (1) of ten (10) exceptions require the Court to deviate from the Guidelines. The court rarely finds exceptions to the Guidelines because they rarely apply, therefore, you should expect that the court will follow the Guidelines.
After discovery, the Court will usually require the parties to engage in mediation in an effort to settle. We strongly advise using a private mediator with extensive experience litigating family law matters; many of our favorite mediators are former Family Court judges and prominent family law attorneys. We can also assist parties who choose a low cost option such as Mediation Center of the Pacific.
In order for the Family Court to have jurisdiction over a paternity case, the child who is the subject of the case must have actually been born. The court does not have jurisdiction over unborn children. FAQs
This website contains only general information and readers should not take any actions without first consulting a qualified attorney about their specific situation.
There are three ways. A child born during marriage is presumed to be the “lawful issue” of both spouses. There is no need to “establish paternity” for such a child unless someone is claiming that the husband is not the child’s father. When a child is born to persons who are not married, the most common way that paternity is established in Hawaii is that the father signs an affidavit of paternity at a “birthing facility” when the child is born (this works only for children born after 1997). The other way is to file a petition to establish paternity in the Family Court. If paternity has already been established under the law of some other state, Hawaii will usually give full credit to that other state’s order.
If you are the mother, and paternity has never been established, you have custody until there is a court order awarding custody. If paternity has been established, or if you are a father, you must file a petition with the Family Court seeking an award of custody.
If you are a parent and are not being permitted to see your child, but you are not seeking custody, then you must file a petition asking for a visitation schedule.