TWENTY-NINTH LEGISLATURE, 2017
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
relating to child visitation.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that there is often a strong bond between a grandparent and grandchild and which, in some families, may run deeper than the relationship between parent and child. Grandparents can be great role models and influences, provide a sense of cultural heritage and family history, and can further provide their grandchildren with love, have their best interests at heart, can make them feel safe, and encourage a child's healthy development.
Ten years ago, in Doe v. Doe, 116 Haw. 323, 172 P.3d 1067 (2007), the Hawaii supreme court struck down the State's grandparent visitation statute as unconstitutional. The statute, as written, allowed grandparent visitation to be awarded if it is shown that the visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court held that, due to the fundamental right of a parent to control and direct the raising of a child, a petition for visitation can only be granted if it is not only in the best interest of the child, but also that denial of the visitation would cause significant harm to the child.
The purpose of this Act is to provide constitutionally-sound standards for the court to consider in awarding visitation rights to grandparents.
SECTION 2. Section 571-46, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
"(a) In actions for divorce, separation, annulment, separate maintenance, or any other proceeding where there is at issue a dispute as to the custody of a minor child, the court, during the pendency of the action, at the final hearing, or any time during the minority of the child, may make an order for the custody of the minor child as may seem necessary or proper. In awarding the custody, the court shall be guided by the following standards, considerations, and procedures:
(1) Custody should be awarded to either parent or to both parents according to the best interests of the child, and the court also may consider frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact of each parent with the child unless the court finds that a parent is unable to act in the best interest of the child;
(2) Custody may be awarded to persons other than the father or mother whenever the award serves the best interest of the child. Any person who has had de facto custody of the child in a stable and wholesome home and is a fit and proper person shall be entitled prima facie to an award of custody;
(3) If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason, so as to form an intelligent preference, the child's wishes as to custody shall be considered and be given due weight by the court;
(4) Whenever good cause appears therefor, the court may require an investigation and report concerning the care, welfare, and custody of any minor child of the parties. When so directed by the court, investigators or professional personnel attached to or assisting the court, hereinafter referred to as child custody evaluators, shall make investigations and reports that shall be made available to all interested parties and counsel before hearing, and the reports may be received in evidence if no objection is made and, if objection is made, may be received in evidence; provided the person or persons responsible for the report are available for cross-examination as to any matter that has been investigated; and provided further that the court shall define, in accordance with section 571-46.4, the requirements to be a court-appointed child custody evaluator, the standards of practice, ethics, policies, and procedures required of court-appointed child custody evaluators in the performance of their duties for all courts, and the powers of the courts over child custody evaluators to effectuate the best interests of a child in a contested custody dispute pursuant to this section. Where there is no child custody evaluator available that meets the requirements and standards, or any child custody evaluator to serve indigent parties, the court may appoint a person otherwise willing and available in accordance with section 571-46.4;
(5) The court may hear the testimony of any person or expert, produced by any party or upon the court's own motion, whose skill, insight, knowledge, or experience is such that the person's or expert's testimony is relevant to a just and reasonable determination of what is for the best physical, mental, moral, and spiritual well-being of the child whose custody is at issue;
(6) Any custody award shall be subject to modification or change whenever the best interests of the child require or justify the modification or change and, wherever practicable, the same person who made the original order shall hear the motion or petition for modification of the prior award;
(7) Reasonable visitation rights shall be awarded to
grandparents,] siblings, and any person interested in the
welfare of the child in the discretion of the court, unless it is shown that
rights of visitation are detrimental to the best interests of the child;
(8) The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child and may assess the reasonable fees and expenses of the guardian ad litem as costs of the action, payable in whole or in part by either or both parties as the circumstances may justify;
(9) In every proceeding where there is at issue a dispute as to the custody of a child, a determination by the court that family violence has been committed by a parent raises a rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence. In addition to other factors that a court shall consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation by a parent is at issue, and in which the court has made a finding of family violence by a parent:
(A) The court shall consider as the primary factor the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence;
(B) The court shall consider the perpetrator's history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, or assault or causing reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person; and
(C) If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of family violence by the other parent, the absence or relocation shall not be a factor that weighs against the parent in determining custody or visitation;
(10) A court may award visitation to a parent who has committed family violence only if the court finds that adequate provision can be made for the physical safety and psychological well-being of the child and for the safety of the parent who is a victim of family violence;
(11) In a visitation order, a court may:
(A) Order an exchange of a child to occur in a protected setting;
(B) Order visitation supervised by another person or agency;
(C) Order the perpetrator of family violence to attend and complete, to the satisfaction of the court, a program of intervention for perpetrators or other designated counseling as a condition of the visitation;
(D) Order the perpetrator of family violence to abstain from possession or consumption of alcohol or controlled substances during the visitation and for twenty-four hours preceding the visitation;
(E) Order the perpetrator of family violence to pay a fee to defray the costs of supervised visitation;
(F) Prohibit overnight visitation;
(G) Require a bond from the perpetrator of family violence for the return and safety of the child. In determining the amount of the bond, the court shall consider the financial circumstances of the perpetrator of family violence;
(H) Impose any other condition that is deemed necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of family violence, or other family or household member; and
(I) Order the address of the child and the victim to be kept confidential;
(12) The court may refer but shall not order an adult who is a victim of family violence to attend, either individually or with the perpetrator of the family violence, counseling relating to the victim's status or behavior as a victim as a condition of receiving custody of a child or as a condition of visitation;
(13) If a court allows a family or household member to supervise visitation, the court shall establish conditions to be followed during visitation;
(14) A supervised visitation center shall provide a secure setting and specialized procedures for supervised visitation and the transfer of children for visitation and supervision by a person trained in security and the avoidance of family violence;
(15) The court may include in visitation awarded pursuant to this section visitation by electronic communication provided that the court shall additionally consider the potential for abuse or misuse of the electronic communication, including the equipment used for the communication, by the person seeking visitation or by persons who may be present during the visitation or have access to the communication or equipment; whether the person seeking visitation has previously violated a temporary restraining order or protective order; and whether adequate provision can be made for the physical safety and psychological well-being of the child and for the safety of the custodial parent;
(16) The court may set conditions for visitation by electronic communication under paragraph (15), including visitation supervised by another person or occurring in a protected setting. Visitation by electronic communication shall not be used to:
(A) Replace or substitute an award of custody or physical visitation except where:
(i) Circumstances exist that make a parent seeking visitation unable to participate in physical visitation, including military deployment; or
(ii) Physical visitation may subject the child to physical or extreme psychological harm; or
(B) Justify or support the relocation of a custodial parent; and
(17) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, no natural parent shall be granted custody of or visitation with a child if the natural parent has been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction in any state of rape or sexual assault and the child was conceived as a result of that offense; provided that:
(A) A denial of custody or visitation under this paragraph shall not affect the obligation of the convicted natural parent to support the child;
(B) The court may order the convicted natural parent to pay child support;
(C) This paragraph shall not apply if subsequent to the date of conviction, the convicted natural parent and custodial natural parent cohabitate and establish a mutual custodial environment for the child; and
(D) A custodial natural parent may petition the court to grant the convicted natural parent custody and visitation denied pursuant to this paragraph, and upon such petition the court may grant custody and visitation to the convicted natural parent where it is in the best interest of the child."
SECTION 3. Section 571-46.3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:
visitation rights; petition; notice; order. (a) A grandparent or
the grandparents of a minor child may file a petition with the court for an
order of reasonable visitation rights. The court may award reasonable
visitation rights provided that the following [
criteria are met:] findings
(1) This State is the home state of the child at the
time of the commencement of the proceeding; [
and (2) Reasonable visitation rights are in the
best interests of the child.]
(2) Grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child; and
(3) Denial of reasonable grandparent visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child.
(b) No hearing for an order of reasonable visitation rights under this section shall be had unless each of the living parents and the child's custodians shall have had due notice, actual or constructive, of the allegations of the petition and of the time and place of the hearing thereof.
(c) In any proceeding on a petition filed under this section, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a parent's decision regarding visitation is in the best interest of the child. The presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of reasonable grandparent visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child.
(d) In awarding reasonable grandparent visitation, the court shall be guided by all standards, considerations, and procedures for parent visitation under section 571-46.
(e) When a finding of family violence between the parents has been determined by the court, grandparents shall not misuse any visitation granted to them by transferring their time to any other party and shall be bound to the same court orders maintained by the parents.
(f) An order made pursuant to this section shall be enforceable by the court, and the court may issue other orders to carry out these enforcement powers if in the best interests of the child."
SECTION 4. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.
SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2017.
Child Custody; Grandparent Visitation
Adds as prerequisites to awarding visitation that the court finds that awarding visitation to grandparent is in the best interest of the child and that denial of reasonable grandparent visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child. Clarifies procedures for awarding visitation. Deletes duplicative provision of awarding grandparents reasonable visitation rights.
The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.