There are two types of adoptions – uncontested and contested. In both cases prospective adoptive parents must first gather and file all required documents with the family court and obtain verification from the Department of Human Services (DHS) that they have no history of Child Protective Service allegations or investigations 

If both biological parents agree, the adoption is uncontested and the family court will send the adoption packet to a judge who will schedule a hearing and finalize the process. An adoption can also be uncontested if one or both biological parents have died, in which case the adopted parent is usually a stepparent, grandparent or other relative, or someone approved by DHS.  

A contested adoption is often a much lengthier undertakingAdoption cases are contested for several reasons. For example, a parent wishes to maintain parental rights in spite of having no contact with the child and providing no support, or it is impossible to obtain permission from one or both parents (due to homelessness, drug addiction, prison time or unavailability).  

In these cases, when submitting paperwork to the family court, the prospective parents must note that one biological parent has not consented to the adoption.  

The family court then schedulea hearing, and a trial if necessary. During the trial, the judge decides whether the nonconsenting parent meets the statutory requirements for taking care of their child. The judge can terminate the parental rights if he or she finds that the parent is not able to provide a safe, stable home for their child, but it is rare for a judge to do so. As in all cases, Hawaii family court judges make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.  

Seth Harris, senior associate of PMK family law is available to assist in all aspects of adoption, whether contested or uncontested. Contact Mr. Harris at Family@HawaiiLegal.com. 

PMK Partner Maxwell K. Kopper was featured in an article titled “Condominium Annual Meetings Another Casualty of Covid” written by Janis Magin from Pacific Business News. Kopper discussed the challenges this year’s annual condominium meetings are facing due to social gathering restrictions.

In Hawaii, a legal adoption is a lengthy process with several phases. Here are some important things to know before commencing the process 

In Hawaii, you can adopt a child if you 

  • Are single or married and at least 18 years old   
  • Are able to support a child financially and provide a safe home environment  
  • Can pass a criminal and Child Welfare Services background check  

The first step is to gather all required documents, complete the required supplemental forms, and file a packet with the adoption clerk. Some of those documents includea certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, petitioner’s marriage certificate, a death certificate for the child’s mother or father if applicable, and a certified copy of the judgement of termination of parental rights.   

A complete list of potential documents and forms to be submitted to the adoption clerk can be found here:  www.courts.state.hi.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/1FP1044.pdf. 

Adoption clerks often request additional paperwork and modifications to submitted documents, so prospective adoptive parents should build in extra time to provide more information and confirm that already provided forms and paperwork are up to date. If anything is incomplete, the court will not set a hearing.  

Once the background check is approved and the adoption packet is complete, the adoption clerk will set a hearing date. At the hearing, the judge will confirm the information provided and speak with the prospective adoptive parents and the child (if he or she is old enough) about the relevant background and the reasons for the adoption. If the adoption is uncontestedthe court can then move forward to finalize the process 

For assistance with all facets of adoption, contact Seth Harris, senior associate with the PMK Family Law Division, at Family@HawaiiLegal.com 

In the next blog post, learn more about the difference between contested and uncontested adoptions.

In Hawaii, there are certain life events, such as marriage or divorce, in which there is an established procedure to legally change your name. Outside of those specific situations, there is a separate legal process you will need to follow to undertake a name change for yourself or on behalf of a minor.  

In the event of marriage, you add your new name to a marriage license, a copy of which can be obtained from the Department of Health. In the case of a divorce, you specify the name change in the divorce decree, which you can obtain from the family court after filing 

To change your name under other circumstances, you must file a petition with the Lt. Governor’s Office. To change a minors name, both natural parents or a legal guardian must file a petition with the Lt. Governor’s officeIf only one natural parent is filing the petition, the petitioner must obtain the written consent of the other parent. 

For detailed information on the process, go to namechange.ehawaii.gov 

 For assistance with legal name changes, please contact Seth Harris, an experienced attorney and senior associate with the PMK Family Law Division.

PMK Partner R. Laree McGuire spoke with Raelene Tenno on ThinkTech Hawaii’s Condo Insider on February 17, 2021. McGuire discussed Debt Collection for Condos & HOA’s.