Paternity Forms and
show that about 18,000 births occur in Hawaii each year, and approximately
30 percent of them are out-of-wedlock. That’s characteristic of society
nowadays and the trend is that many of society’s problems (ranging from
spouse abuse to juvenile delinquency to teen pregnancy) default to the
family courts. Not surprisingly, over 2,600 paternity cases are filed each
year and about 4,000 are pending on any particular day. As Hawaii’s
largest family law firm, Coates & Frey winds up right in the thick of
the old days, the law was that a man became a legally responsible father
only where a child was born during his marriage to the mother or through a
paternity action. Since 1999, however, fathers have been able to establish
legal parentage by signing a “Voluntary Establishment of Paternity”
form at the hospital after the child’s birth. While voluntary
establishment has made the creation of a parent-child relationship easier,
it hasn’t done anything to resolve disputes over custody, visitation and
support that can arise if mom and dad then split up. These cases wind up
in family court, as do cases where there is a paternity judgment with
post-judgment problems, such as adjustment of child support, withholding
of court-ordered visitation, changes of custody and so forth.
an effort to deal with this onslaught of paternity cases, the family court
has come up with some new forms and procedures. The good news is that
paternity cases will probably move through the system more efficiently.
The bad news, however, is that the family court is still overwhelmed by
the sheer volume of cases and can devote very little courtroom time to the
many disputes that invariably arise between unmarried parents.
the improvements that the new forms will feature is a requirement that the
parties inform the court of other pending or completed cases involving the
same parties or children.
example, if there is a domestic abuse restraining order involving one of
the parties, the court will now be aware of that fact. The court is also
adopting simplified financial disclosure statements, similar to (but much
less complex than) those used in divorce cases. The court has also created
a standardized, “check-the-box” judgment that will cover most issues.
the procedural side, all initial paternity petitions will now get their
first hearing on Friday mornings, about a month after filing. If there is
agreement on any issues, that agreement can be memorialized on the
standardized judgment form and the remaining, disputed issues will be set
for a later trial.
there is a complete agreement on all issues, then the judgment can be
submitted to the judge and approved without further hearings. Motions
where a party needs either a temporary order until trial, or some sort of
order after the paternity judgment has been entered, will be heard on
Thursday mornings, three to four weeks after filing. For cases where the
Child Support Enforcement Agency is a party, the agency does not have to
be formally “served” with process and the petition can merely be
placed in a CSEA drop box at the court.
to the incredible volume of paternity cases that we now seem to be
handling, we have established a paternity practice group at Coates &
Frey. Our firm’s litigation director, Tom Farrell, will head up this new
practice group and serve as our firm’s lead liaison with CSEA and
Hawaii’s single-parent community.
Mr. Coates was assisted in writing
this column by Associate Thomas D. Farrell. Prior to coming to Coates
& Frey eight years ago, Mr. Farrell was a deputy attorney general for
fourteen years, and represented Child Protective Services. This article
contains general information; readers should not take any actions based on
the “summarized” information contained herein. Instead, appropriate
experts should be consulted. Phone: 524-4854 or visit