Few things have the potential to be more stressful than going through a custody dispute. When parents can’t agree on how to share time with their children, the decision will be made by the Hawaii Family Court judge. What do judges consider when making custody determinations?

The Hawaii family law requires judges to consider the best interests of the child. In doing so, the judge in your case will consider a set of factors. These factors fit into three general categories. 

1. Each parent’s ability to care for the child

It is in the best interests of any child to have a parent who has the physical and emotional ability to provide effective care. When addressing this point, a judge is likely to inquire into the following: 

  • Each parent’s arrangements for housing, day care and other support by friends or relatives
  • Each parent’s physical, mental and emotional health
  • Whether either parent has issues with drugs or alcohol abuse

2. Each parent’s relationship with the child 

Each parent’s relationship with the child and each other is also relevant to family law judges in the Aloha State. When evaluating the parent-child relationship, the judge may address these factors: 

  • Each parent’s caregiving history (has one parent been the primary caregiver?)
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to promote the relationship between the child and the other parent and relatives
  • Each parent’s history of family conflict and/or child abuse or neglect

3. The child’s unique needs

Finally, the judge must consider the unique needs of the child when determining custody. The following may be a pertinent part of the judge’s decision making: 

  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs 
  • The child’s safety 
  • The child’s need for relationships with siblings
  • The child’s input, if age appropriate.

It is always best to reach an agreement with the other parent regarding custody, timesharing and other issues related to your children. While the Hawaii Family Court judges are experienced and well-intentioned, they are strangers to your family – they don’t know your children as well as you do.  Parents are better positioned than judges to make good decisions for the children, but judges will make the decisions for parents who are unable or unwilling to do so.