When child custody is an issue, it's often assumed that the child's parents are married. However, when child custody is handled between unmarried parents in Hawaii, there can be a lot of confusion. This blog post will clear up some of the common misconceptions about child custody and unmarried parents in Hawaii. We'll discuss paternity and birth certificates, as well as what both parents can do if they want to seek legal custody.
Parents Are Unmarried at the Time of the Child's Birth
When married parents have a child, custody is awarded to both of them due to the concept of presumed paternity. Presumed paternity is where it is assumed that the husband is the biological father of the child and thus does not need to prove paternity.
However, if the child's parents are unmarried at the time of the child's birth, only the child's mother is automatically granted legal custody rights to her child. This is because the father does not have presumed paternity and must establish paternity before any custody arrangements can be made.
In Hawaii, paternity can be established through the completion and filing of the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form or through the parents' marriage after the child's birth. However, if both parents are unable to voluntarily establish paternity, it can be done through a paternity lawsuit, where a DNA test will be done to confirm the paternity of the child. An experienced paternity attorney can help file a paternity lawsuit and prepare for its custody and child support implications.
Once paternity has been established, the child's birth certificate can be amended to include the child's father. If the child's father is not listed on the birth certificate, he may still be able to seek custody or visitation rights. In Hawaii, both parents have the legal right to seek custody of their child, regardless of whether they are married. However, unmarried fathers may have a harder time proving their paternity and establishing themselves as the child's legal father.
Unmarried Parents Can Seek Joint Custody in Hawaii
If both unmarried parents want to seek joint custody of their child, they can do so through the court system in Hawaii. The court will consider a number of factors, often referred to as "the child's best interests," when making a custody determination, including which parent is more likely to provide a stable home environment, the child's relationship with each parent, and each parent's work schedule. The court will also take into account any history of domestic violence or child abuse before awarding custody of a child.
In Hawaii, the courts often grant joint custody agreements unless it is not in the child's best interests to maintain a relationship with one parent. If that is the case, the court will then award sole custody to one parent.
Do Unmarried Parents Have to Create a Custody Arrangement?
If the child's parents do not wish to create a formal custody agreement, as they are in a formal relationship, they are not required to seek a custody order. However, if the parents split up or there is a custody issue in the future, the child's mother will have sole custody unless the child's father has already sought custody rights and proven paternity. Likewise, if the child's parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, either parent can file a petition with the court to have a custody order issued. If one parent is awarded primary physical custody, the other parent will typically be granted visitation rights or a smaller time-sharing amount with the child.
How Can We Get Started?
If you're an unmarried parent in Hawaii who is seeking custody of your child, it's important to speak with an experienced family law attorney before navigating the legal process alone. A lawyer can help you as you seek to establish paternity and ensure that your custody rights are protected.
Schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our family law attorneys today by calling us at (808) 201-3898. We are waiting for your call!