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Hawaii Grandparents' Rights

Supreme Court Finds Statute Unconstitutional



Hawaii has colorful scenery and customs, but no functional grandparent visitation law.

Photo © National Park Service

The law in Hawaii states that grandparents may petition for visitation as long as the child's home state is Hawaii and if "reasonable visitation rights are in the best interests of the child." That statute has been rendered worthless, however, by a 2007 court case declaring that the law as written is unconstitutional.

In Doe v. Doe the Hawaii Supreme Court stated that the state’s lower courts must adopt a test of whether upholding the parent’s wishes could cause “harm” to the child, rather than the less stringent requirement of considering the best interests of the child. The court used Troxel v. Granville, the 2000 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, as the basis of its decision. Hawaii thus joins Florida in having no functional grandparent visitation law.

In 2013 grandparent visitation bills were introduced into both houses of the Hawaiian legislature, but no new legislation was passed. Instead, both House Bill 1244 and Senate Bill 629 were carried over to the 2014 legislative session. Neither is promising for grandparents, however. The House Bill requires grandparents to show that denial of visitation would cause "significant harm" to the child. It lists seven factors to be considered, including the prior grandparent-grandchild relationship and any financial assistance provided by grandparents. The Senate bill simply states that grandparents must show that lack of visitation would cause the child to suffer "significant demonstrable harm."

See Hawaii statutes. See also Doe v. Doe

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