Custody cases are frequently the most difficult family law cases.
Child custody is always determined by the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child will depend on all the circumstances. A young child will have different needs than an older one. The Family Court is involved and up to date on research for each age group and also considers the individual facts and circumstances.
Children do not have a direct voice in Hawaii custody cases despite a law saying that a child's desires will be taken into account when the child reaches an age where she can reasonably express them, because Hawaii courts will almost always decline to talk to a child or let a child testify. We encourage child-centered mediation in cases where the parties can benefit from it. Sometimes it is necessary to go to court and at various points the parties or the court can decide to engage a child custody evaluator.
If there has been family violence, the presumption is against the perpetrator. If you are alleging family violence or have been accused of it, special care is needed.
A common concern is whether a parent can move out of state with the child after divorce. The answer is, "Maybe." If the parent moving is the custodial parent and this is in the child's best interests, there is a good possibility it will be allowed. The other parent has the right to object even though the other has custody.
Child support is determined by a formula into which is put each parent's income and child-related expenses. The absolute minimum per child is only $70 a month. The formula is deviated from only in exceptional circumstances, and can be found at http://hawaii.gov/jud/childpp.htm.
Exceptional circumstances are limited and do not include, for instance, a parent having new children in a new marriage or a new spouse who needs support. A high-earning parent might qualify for deviation from the guidelines.
A child support order is never final and a parent can file for adjustment whenever there is a significant change in income (up or down, for either parent), or every three years by right.
***This is a very basic outline of child support and custody. There are also issues between unmarried partners, of child support governed by Hawaii's Uniform Parentage Act, of separation agreements governing child support, Hawai'i's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 583), Parental Kidnapping Act of 1980, and more.