Although it is extremely rare, there are times when a family court judge may decide to terminate an adult’s legal rights as a parent. Such action is almost always linked to foster custody or an adoption proceeding.  

In some instances, such action is involuntary, and it may occur over the objection of the parent whose rights are being terminated. In other cases, the parent may request that the court terminate their parental rights. In either case, the court uses very strict standards to terminate a parent’s legal rights to their child.  

When it comes to involuntary termination of a parent’s legal rights, the court will consider any way in which the parent has made an effort to be a part of the child’s life. For example, even a parent who is incarcerated may be able to send letters to their child or provide minimal financial support in some form.  

 Some of the circumstances under Hawaii state law in which the court will involuntarily terminate a parent’s legal rights to their child include: 

  • If the parent surrendered care of the child to another person for at least two years  
  • If the parent failed to communicate with the child for at least one year  
  • When the parent fails to provide care and support to the child for at least one year 
  • When the child was removed from the parent’s physical custody due to a legal action 
  • If the parent is found by the court to be mentally ill or intellectually disabled and unable to givconsent to an adoption or from providing the care necessary for the well-being of the child
  • If it is determined that the father is not the natural or adoptive father  

If a parent wishes to relinquish their parental rights to their child, the family court judge will ask for the specific reasons for the request. The most common circumstances in which the court might grant a parents’ request to relinquish their parental are when the child is adopted by another, such as a stepparent or new adoptive parents.  

Whether voluntary or involuntary, the termination of parental rights is not something that the Family Court takes lightly. Seth Harris, senior associate with PMK’s family law division is available to assist with any legal cases related to the termination of parental rights or any other family law needs. For more information, go to

Partner R. Laree McGuire was a featured panelist at the April 1st Hawaii Chapter Community Association Institute Webinar, “Fire & Life Safety; Sprinklers Updates.” McGuire spoke about Ordinance 21-3 which addresses fire safety, sprinkler system and alarm requirements and emergency plans for residents.


The Family Court is seeing an increased backlog of unresolved cases, especially because of the complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearings – even those deemed urgent – are being scheduled months out. Even more so than in the past, the court is encouraging people to seek alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to avoid what can be a months-long wait for a hearing. Alternative dispute resolution can also be less expensive than going through the Family Court.  

Parents or spouses can use alternative dispute resolution to navigate divorces, and custody or child support disputes.  

Forms of alternative dispute resolution include:  

  • Mediation – The parties work together with a trained mediator to facilitate conversation and resolution.  
  • Arbitration – The parties hire a family law attorney or expert who acts as a private judge to resolve the remaining disputes.   
  • Custody Issues – Third-party evaluators, such as a Family Court-approved, licensed,  trained custody evaluator, can determine what arrangement is in the best interest of the child. 

 Seth Harris, senior associate at the PMK family law division, can help determine if alternative dispute resolution is a good option for you. For more information, go to 

Tax season is upon us, so now is the time to begin thinking about how financial aspects of your life, such as child-related expenses, can impact your taxes.  

 Here are some general rules of thumb when it comes to taxes and dependent expenses and benefits: 

  • Government Economic Stimulus Payments – These are not taxable. The government pays the stimulus to the parent who claims the child as a dependent for their taxesHowever, both parents may choose to share it, especially if they have joint custody. 
  • Child Support – Child support is not taxableThe tax is paid when it is initially received by the party who earned the income. The support payment is not taxed and is not reported on tax returns as taxable income.  
  • Claiming a Child as a Dependent – The parent who has primary custody of the child usually claims them as a dependent on their taxes. There are exceptions, such as if the parents agree to a different arrangement or if a judge orders an alternative situation. In those cases, the IRS usually requires the custodial parent to sign a waiver recognizing that the other parent is claiming the child. 
  • Tax Deductions for Educational Expenses – There are potential tax credits and/or deductions for some education expenses and for contributing to college savings plans, such as a 529 college savings plan.  

Some child-related tax benefits are capped or reduced for higher-income earners. In those cases, a parent may be able to use those benefits as an additional value to allocate in a divorce or custody proceeding to assist with settlement.  

Seth Harris,senior associate at thePMK family law division, is available to help you work through any issues related to divorce and child custody, as well as all family law needsFor more information, go to 

Note: The attorneys of PMK do not provide tax advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax advice. You should consult your own tax advisors before engaging in any action. 

As the kupuna of our families go through the aging process, there may be times when other family members need to take over as decision-makers for certain aspects of their lives.

This type of arrangement, known as guardianship for an incapacitated adult, can occur if any adult relative becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.  

Guardianship for incapacitated adults can be limited or unlimited. In a limited guardianship, the court grants specific powers, such as only medical decisions or taskswhich might include ordering prescriptions, obtaining a disabled parking pass, or securing a service animal.  

An unlimited guardianship allows one to make all of the decisions for the incapacitated adult, including financial decisionssuch as receiving money on their behalf and using that money to pay for their expenses. Whenever feasible, the Court grants only those powers which are necessary due to the adultlimitations. 

In order to establish legal guardianship of an adult, one must file a standard petition with the court explaining who requires guardianship and whythe proposed guardian, and a note from a physician explaining how that adult is incapacitated.  

The court prioritizes potential guardians in the order of relationship to the incapacitated person in the following order: 

  • Parents 
  • Siblings 
  • Children
  • Unrelated caregivers  

The person petitioning for guardianship will also need to notify any other potential guardians and request a waiver and consent from them.  

The court then schedules a hearing in which the petitioner provides the judge with the doctor’s letter, any waivers from other potential guardians, and a financial report for the incapacitated personIf there is a current caregiver, such as a nursing home, they will also need to be notified.  

A petition for guardianship is usually granted if the reason for the request is confirmed by a physician and there are no objections by other potential guardians 

Following an approved petition, the potential guardian will need to file reports to the court annually, including information about the condition of the incapacitated adult and the status of their finances.   

Overall, establishing guardianship for an incapacitated adult in the state of Hawaii can be easily navigated with the help of an experienced attorney. Seth Harris, senior associate with the PMK Family Law Division, is able to take you through the steps so you can make the best possible decisions for your kupuna.