Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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In this divorce proceeding, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) concluding that Father's motion to amend findings of fact and conclusions of law and motion for new trial pursuant were untimely and concluding that the family court's orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motions.The family court denied Father's motions to amend and for new trial the ICA determined that the family court's orders were void and that both motions were untimely. The ICA remanded with instructions for the family court to enter orders denying both motions on that basis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ICA erred in holding that Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were untimely and in holding that the family court's orders denying the motions were void for lack of jurisdiction because the family court had jurisdiction to enter the orders. Further, the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law

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In Father's third appeal in a divorce proceeding the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) except to the extent it affirmed the family court's order denying Father's motion for relief from judgment, holding that the ICA erred in determining that the family court's orders orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void and that both motions were untimely.After the family court entered a divorce decree Father submitted to the family court a Hawai'i Family Court Rules (HFCR) Rule 52(b) motion to amend, a HFCR Rule 59 motion for new trial, and a HFCR Rule 60(a) motion for relief from judgment. The family court denied Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. The ICA determined that the family court's orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void and that both motions were untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ICA erred in holding that the motions to amend and for new trial were untimely; (2) the family court had jurisdiction to enter the orders; and (3) the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the family court's challenged rulings concerning child custody and relocation and disqualification of counsel in a divorce proceeding, holding that the ICA did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the ICA did not err by (1) (a) considering the family court’s April 26, 2018 amended findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding child custody despite its entry of some findings of fact regarding child custody before the March 26, 2018 notice of appeal because the notice of appeal was premature; and (b) rejecting Petitioner’s arguments that the April 26, 2018 findings and conclusions should be rejected because the family court adopted Respondent's submissions verbatim; (2) affirming the family court’s denial of its motion to disqualify Respondent’s counsel and law firm; and (3) affirming the family court’s grant of sole physical custody of the parties’ minor children to Respondent and allowing Respondent to relocate the children to Arizona. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate court of appeals' (ICA) amended judgment remanding this custody case to the family court for further proceedings, holding that the ICA did not err by holding that the family court abused its discretion in denying Father's request for a continuance to seek the assistance of an attorney.Mother filed a motion for post-decree relief requesting sole physician and joint legal custody of the parties' two minor children so that she could relocate to North Carolina. Both parties proceeded to trial without attorneys. Father, who had a Tagalog interpreter available at trial, experienced difficulty cross-examining witnesses and orally requested a continuance so that he could obtain the assistance of an attorney. The family court denied as untimely Father's motion. The court then ruled that it was in the children's best interests to relocate with Mother. The ICA vacated the family court's ruling. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court abused its discretion in denying Father's motion for a continuance. View "DJ v. CJ" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the order of the family court in this case concerning the proper consideration and weight of a hānai relationship in the context of a child welfare proceeding, holding that a hānai relative who is a child's resource caregiver has an interest in that child's custody sufficient to allow intervention in such proceedings under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Hawai'i Family Court Rules.Child lived with Father and his girlfriend, KL. After Father moved out, Child remained in the same home as KL. The family court later changed Child's placement to her great aunt and uncle's home in New Hampshire. At the hearing changing Child's placement, KL sought to have to have interest in the proceeding recognized. The family court denied the request. The ICA ruled that because KL had filed a petition to adopt Child she had a sufficient interest in Child's custody to intervene. KL sought further review, arguing that her status as a hānai relative conferred a substantive interest in Child's placement. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the family court erred by not allowing KL to intervene in the placement hearing based in part on her status as Child's hānai parent. View "In re AB" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal affirming the family court's termination of Father's parental rights, holding that the ICA erred in substituting a provision of the family court statutes, Haw. Rev. Stat. 571-61(b)(1)(E), for a provision of the Child Protective Act (CPA) as the basis for terminating Father's parental rights.The family court terminated Father's parental rights to his child pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 587A-33, a provision of the CPA. On appeal, the ICA held that the family court's termination of Father's parental rights was not permitted by the plain language of the CPA provision. However, the ICA affirmed the termination of Father's parental rights under the family court provision. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding that where the CPA provision contained a requirement not present in the family court provision the ICA erred by invoking the family court provision to affirm the family court's termination of Father's parental rights. View "In re Interest of R Children" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the parentage of a child, the Supreme Court held that both the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) and Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act demonstrate that the UPA’s marital presumption of paternity applies equally to both men and women and that Appellant did not rebut the presumption of parentage.LC sought a divorce from her wife, MG shortly after a child was born to MG through an artificial insemination procedure. LC and MG were legally married at the time of the child’s birth, but LC was not biologically related to the child. After the child’s birth, LC sought an order seeking to disestablish parentage. The family court denied the request, determining that LC was the child’s legal parent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that LC was presumed to be the legal mother of the child and that LC did not rebut the presumption of parentage. View "LC v. MG " on Justia Law

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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court held that the family court erred in not holding a further hearing to ascertain whether W.N. was presently a fit and proper person as required to establish a prima facie entitlement to custody of the parties’ minor child and whether a custody award would be in the minor child’s present best interests.Previously in this case, the Supreme Court vacated the family court’s denial of W.N.’s petition for joint custody of the minor child. The Court remanded the case with instructions that the family court determine whether W.N. established a prima facie case of de facto custody and, if so, enter a custody award that was in the child’s best interest. On remand, the family court entered its order denying custody to W.N. without holding a further evidentiary hearing or taking additional evidence. The Supreme Court vacated the order and remanded the case for a further evidentiary hearing and provided guidance as to other evidentiary matters that were raised on appeal. View "W.N. v. S.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the family court’s order in this Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 587A Child Protective Act (CPA) proceeding arising from the death of Parents’ three-year-old child, FG, who died while in foster care.Parents and their children had been under the supervision of the Department of Human Services (DHS) since 2016. When FG died, Parents shared information related to the foster placement and FG’s death on social media and with a local news organization. The family court issued on order preventing all parties to the CPA proceeding from (1) disclosing the names of the children still in foster custody to the general public, and (2) releasing reports or other information that “have been or will be” submitted to the family court relating to the case or the Parents’ two surviving children. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the family court (1) failed to make the findings required to establish that the prohibition against disclosure of the children’s names survives a First Amendment challenge; and (2) failed adequately to explain the basis for the portion of its order prohibiting disclosure of records that have or will be submitted to the family court, and the record was insufficient to support its issuance. View "In re FG" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this divorce case to the family court, holding that the family court erred in failing to identify equitable considerations that could have justified deviating from the partnership model when the divorce resulted in significant financial disparity between Husband and Wife. The family court awarded virtually all of the spouses’ property to Husband, a seventy-one-year-old retired musician and trust fund beneficiary, who was also receiving court-ordered spousal support from Wife, a fifty-six-year-old emergency room doctor. The Supreme Court further held that the family court erred by not explaining why it rejected Wife’s request to deviate from the partnership model. View "Selvage v. Moire" on Justia Law