Family Law Practice Group COVID-19 Update: March 27, 2020

Judith A. Schevtchuk
jas@hawaiilawyer.com

 

Family Court is Open
The Kapolei Family Court is open for persons seeking domestic abuse and gun violence restraining orders/orders for protection. However, the calendar of scheduled pre-divorce/post-divorce and paternity cases and adoptions is cancelled through April 30, 2020. This includes all trials and change of custody and child support modifications matters.

Only the following matters will be heard: juveniles in custody at Hale Ho’omalu (the Detention Center), Child Welfare Services (“CPS”) child abuse cases when the State (“CPS”), has filed a petition to remove a child from the family home; hearings for Domestic Abuse Orders for Protection; hearings for Gun Violence Protective Orders; civil commitments of incapacitated persons; and emergency guardianships. Pleadings can still be filed; uncontested divorces cases can still be granted. The mandatory “Kids First’ educational program for parents and children in divorce and paternity cases is suspended until after April 30, 2020. Family Court Adult Criminal Division cases (e.g. arrests of adults for crimes committed against a family or household member), shall continue to be heard at the Family Court Adult Criminal Division co-located at the Honolulu District Court on Alakea Street.

District Court Temporary Restraining Orders
People who wish to file a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to prevent harassment or abuse by a person who is not a current or former family member or cohabitant or somebody with whom you had a dating relationship as–for example–a neighbor or tenant–may continue to do so at the Information Booth on the lanai of the Honolulu District Court on Alakea Street. TRO cases will be heard as well as cases involving defendants in the custody of the Honolulu Police Department, OCCC or the Hawai’i State Hospital with video teleconferencing used where possible. All of the other Oahu District Courts are closed from March 23, 2020 through April 30, 2020. Criminal and criminal traffic cases involving defendants who are in the custody of OCCC, HPD or the Hawai’i State Hospital will be heard. All traffic infraction cases will be postponed until after April 30, 2020.

NOTE: The above relates to courts on Oahu (the First Judicial Circuit). Judges on the Neighbor Islands have issued similar orders effective through April 30, 2020. Island specific orders are available at www.courts.state.hi.us

Mediation Center of the Pacific 
All face-to-face mediations scheduled through and including April 30, 2020 have been cancelled. They will offer mediation sessions via telephone and Zoom. For further updates, contact www.mediatehawaii.org

Decrease of Income and Child Support Modification 
Many parents have experienced a decrease or loss of income. Many parents have lost childcare since the schools have been closed since on or about March 13, 2020 when the public schools began “Spring Break.” Parents should communicate their situation to their children’s other parent immediately. There is no process for the Hawai’i Child Support Enforcement Agency to inform families; they will continue to garnish when there is income until the amount is modified by the Family Court or in an administrative hearing at the Office of Child Support Hearings (“OCSH”). Both of these agencies are dealing with the pandemic too; all administrative hearings have been cancelled through April 30, 2020. Statutes (both federal and state), limit the percentage of pay which can be garnished for child support so recipients may receive some lesser amount—or zero.

Child Support surprises are never well-received; tell your child’s parent what has happened to you, your job and your childcare and try to focus on your children’s welfare and cooperate with the other parent. Unemployment compensation is “counted” as income for child support purposes. The paying parent should document his/her job loss date and keep records to support her/his request to modify the child support once the Court and OCSH resume business. CSEA is currently re-opening on April 2, 2020 but that may change. For further information, see: www.ag.hawaii.gov/CSEA and www.ag.hawaii.gov/OCSH

Timesharing Schedule
“Spring Break” is typically shared or alternated annually between parents and when the 1-2 week break ends, the children resume their regular timesharing schedule. No court orders anticipated a pandemic which would affect children’s schooling and activities and parents’ childcare plans for this duration. Parents who are refusing to return to the regular timesharing schedule are making a poor decision. On the other hand, most parents have existing court custody orders which allow parents to modify the timesharing by agreement and they can address the problems of job lay-offs and children home from school for weeks… Parents who put their children FIRST will attempt to work out a solution because—right now—the Court is not available to referee the dispute.

Notice of Child’s Exposure to COVID-19
Whether the parents share joint legal or joint physical custody or not, a parent should be informed if a child has been exposed to COVID-19 so the child can receive medical care and perhaps be quarantined and to ensure the child does not carry the virus to kupuna or other medically compromised household members. A parent who insists on or accepts a child with symptoms into his/her household is risking a bad outcome for anyone in that household. By the same rationale, a child should not return to a household where someone has symptoms and is (or should be) self-quarantining herself/himself and is not doing so.

Military Family Information
(1) Effective Friday, March 27, 2020, the Tripler Refill Pharmacy at the Navy Exchange will be permanently closed due to COVID-19. Prescriptions will need to be retrieved at one of the other military treatment facilities; (2) PCS moves to the mainland (or overseas) from Hawai’i were “frozen” for sixty (60) days starting March 16, 2020 by DOD policy to limit the transmission of the coronavirus. There are limited exceptions available for people who have sold their homes or terminated their leases or for other significant reasons.

For questions about family law legal services, please contact the Damon Key Family Practice Group at 531-8031 or email Judy at jas@hawaiilawyer.com.

 

Stay Informed with Legal Alert

Attorneys at Law · A Law Corporation
1003 Bishop Street, Suite 1600 · Pauahi Tower · Honolulu · Hawaii · 96813
Telephone 808 · 531 · 8031
Facsimile 808 · 533 · 2242