Honolulu Child Custody and Support Attorney
Child Custody in Hawaii
The term "child custody" actually has two parts: legal custody and physical custody. Each type of custody is independent of the other. In other words, having a certain type of physical custody will not automatically determine what type of legal custody will be awarded, and legal custody will not automatically determine the type of physical custody that will be awarded. Some parents have sole legal and physical custody and other parents have joint legal custody but one of them has sole physical custody. In all cases, custody is based on what is in the best interest of the child. It should not be based primarily on what is fair to a parent or what is convenient for a parent. With the help of a Honolulu child custody attorney your situation can be worked out fairly and in the best interest of the child.
Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child, including but not limited to medical, educational, and religious matters, and extra-curricular activities. Legal custody can be joint or sole, and it does not affect child support, which is linked only to physical custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. Physical custody can also be joint or sole. With joint physical custody or equal time-sharing, the child’s time with each parent is divided fairly evenly. With sole physical custody, the child lives mostly with one parent and with the other parent 143 or fewer overnights per year. Also, there can be sole physical custody to one parent but "extensive time-sharing" with the other parent who has the child between 144 and 182 overnight stays per year.
In most cases, when a parent has not been given physical custody, he or she receives reasonable visitation or time-sharing rights. Visitation rights are significant and enforceable rights; a custodial parent’s interference with those rights, such as relocating the child to another island, the continental United States or a foreign country without the other parent’s consent or a court order, can lead to negative consequences for the relocating parent. A parent with visitation rights usually pays more child support since the child has a greater economic impact on the custodial parent.
There are many factors that a court must consider when determining what type of custody and visitation or time-sharing would be best for the child. Not every factor will be given the same consideration or “weight” by the court; some factors may have more influence in a custody dispute than other factors. An experienced Honolulu custody lawyer can help you assess the type of custody that could be best for your child and, if court intervention is necessary or desired, which is more likely to be acceptable to the court.
If you and your spouse reach an agreement about custody and visitation instead of leaving it up to a judge to decide the issues, the court usually will accept your agreement. That agreement will be difficult to change later, however, if only one of you decides you do not like it. For that reason, if you have any concerns about entering into an agreement, consult an attorney before you consent orally, electronically or in writing.
In Hawaii, child support is determined based on a standardized set of guidelines, unless the court finds "exceptional circumstances" in a particular case. These guidelines take into account the custodial parent's minimum needs and costs above his or her own living expenses, combined with the standard of living allowance ("SOLA") needs of the children. Parents are allowed to keep enough income to meet their most basic needs and to continue working. Any income above this minimum amount is to be shared by the children so that the children can receive the benefits of a parent's higher standard of living.
This complicated formula mainly takes into account each parent's gross monthly incomes, but also factors in other expenses such as child care expenses, medical costs, and any alimony payments one spouse makes to the other. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the court will not consider other living expenses such as mortgage, rent, and/or vehicle payments. Whether a parent pays child support, and how much, will depend on the relevant factors and whether there is equal time-sharing, sole physical custody or extensive time-sharing (i.e., one of the parents has the child(ren) for over 143 but less than 183 overnight stays each year). The situation becomes more complex where there is split custody, which occurs when one parent has physical custody of one or more children, and the other parent has physical custody of the other children.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
Because of the complexity and emotional nature of child custody and support cases, it is crucial to have experienced and dedicated legal representation. Mei Nakamoto has dedicated her career to assisting clients in these issues. She has particular experience dealing with difficult cases, including those involving domestic physical and emotional abuse of both the spouse and children and cases when parents have violated court orders and left with their children. No matter how complicated, serious, or emotionally-charged your situation is, Ms. Nakamoto has the experience and dedication to assist you. Contact Mei Nakamoto, Attorney at Law today for a free initial phone consultation regarding your case.