S.B. NO.














Relating to Families.





SECTION 1. The legislature finds that individuals with disabilities face certain preconceived biases and attitudes in family and dependency law proceedings where custody and visitation are at stake. As reported by the National Council on Disability in its 2012 report "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children", parents with disabilities are more likely to be referred to child welfare services and then have their children removed and parental rights severed than parents without disabilities.

The legislature further finds that a number of states have amended their child custody laws to address some of the barriers experienced by parents with disabilities. Additionally, in 2015 the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued technical assistance guidance clarifying that children should not be removed from their parents simply because a parent has a disability.

The purpose of this Act is to protect the best interests of children parented by individuals who have a disability by establishing procedural safeguards.

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 parents, 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[.]; and

(18) Custody shall not be determined, in and of itself, by a disability of a parent unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child."

SECTION 3. Section 587A-7, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"[[]587A-7[]] Safe family home factors. (a) The following factors shall be fully considered when determining whether a child's family is willing and able to provide the child with a safe family home:

(1) Facts relating to the child's current situation, which shall include:

(A) The child's age, vulnerability, and special needs that affect the child's attachment, growth, and development;

(B) The child's developmental, psychological, medical, and dental health status and needs, including the names of assessment and treatment providers;

(C) The child's peer and family relationships and bonding abilities;

(D) The child's educational status and setting, and the department's efforts to maintain educational stability for the child in out-of-home placement;

(E) The child's living situation;

(F) The child's fear of being in the family home;

(G) The impact of out-of-home placement on the child;

(H) Services provided to the child and family; and

(I) The department's efforts to maintain connections between the child and the child's siblings, if they are living in different homes;

(2) The initial and any subsequent reports of harm and threatened harm to the child;

(3) Dates and reasons for the child's out-of-home placement; description, appropriateness, and location of the placement; and who has placement responsibility;

(4) Facts regarding the alleged perpetrators of harm to the child, the child's parents, and other family members who are parties to the court proceedings, which facts shall include:

(A) Birthplace and family of origin;

(B) Manner in which the alleged perpetrator of harm was parented;

(C) Marital and relationship history; and

(D) Prior involvement in services;

(5) Results of psychiatric, psychological, or developmental evaluations of the child, the alleged perpetrators, and other family members who are parties;

(6) Whether there is a history of abusive or assaultive conduct by the child's family members and others who have access to the family home;

(7) Whether there is a history of substance abuse by the child's family or others who have access to the family home;

(8) Whether any alleged perpetrator has completed services in relation to any history identified in paragraphs (6) and (7), and acknowledged and accepted responsibility for the harm to the child;

(9) Whether any non-perpetrator who resides in the family home has demonstrated an ability to protect the child from further harm and to ensure that any current protective orders are enforced;

(10) Whether there is a support system available to the child's family, including adoptive and hanai relatives, friends, and faith-based or other community networks;

(11) Attempts to locate and involve extended family, friends, and faith-based or other community networks;

(12) Whether the child's family has demonstrated an understanding of and involvement in services that have been recommended by the department or court-ordered as necessary to provide a safe family home for the child;

(13) Whether the child's family has resolved identified safety issues in the family home within a reasonable period of time; and

(14) The department's assessment, which shall include the demonstrated ability of the child's family to provide a safe family home for the child, and recommendations.

(b) The court shall consider the likelihood that the current situation presented in the safe family home factors set forth in subsection (a) will continue in the reasonably foreseeable future.

(c) Custody shall not be determined, in and of itself, by a disability of a parent unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child."

SECTION 4. This Act does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, and proceedings that were begun before its effective date.

SECTION 5. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 6. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.




















Report Title:

Parental Disability; Child Custody Determination; Deaf and Blind Task Force



Prohibits child custody determinations from being based solely on a disability of a parent.




The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.