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Child Support

Basics of Child Support. Child support is payments made to the parent who has custody of the parties’ children by the parent who does not have custody. The parent that makes child support payments is commonly referred to as the “Payer.” The parent who receives the child support payments is commonly referred to as the “Payee.” If the parties have joint physical custody, or the noncustodial parent has visitation, a different child support calculation formula is used.

The minimum child support payment under Hawaii law is currently $77.00 per child, per month. The parties may agree, or stipulate to a higher amount than the Guidelines indicates, but not agree to a lower amount unless there are exceptional circumstances agreed to by the Court.

Other Expenses Factored into the Child Support Formula. The Court may take into considerations expenses such as payments of child support to other minor children; however, the Court does not factor in other financial factors such as mortgage, rent, car payments, living expenses, etc.

Joint Custody/Extensive Visitation. Joint custody (50 percent of time with each parent) child support calculations are made where the parties share equal time with the child or children. Child support typically occurs in this type of equal time sharing, unless both parties are making the same, or nearly the same, income. Child support for equal time sharing is calculated by what each parent would be paying the other, and offsetting the two amounts.

The extensive visitation calculation is a formula used where the noncustodial parent has more than 143 days with the child, but less than 50 percent of the time. The Child Support Guidelines for joint custody result in much lower child support amounts than those for sole custody. The Child Support Guidelines for Extensive Visitation result in payment amounts that are less than what would be calculated for sole custody, but more than what is calculated for joint custody.

Child Support Payment Length. Child support in Hawaii is ordered for children up to the age of 18, or up to the age of 23 if the child is pursuing higher education on a full-time basis. Hawaii case law, however, indicates that there may be unusual circumstances in which support could possibly be extended past the age of 23.

Adult Children in College. If a child is seeking higher education beyond high school and is living with the custodial parent, then child support would simply continue. If, however, the child is not living with the custodial parent, then it may be a situation where the child support may be paid directly to the child for their living expenses and education costs such as tuition, books, etc.

Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). The Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) is in charge of establishing, modifying and enforcing support payments for children.

Child Support Payments. Under Hawaii law, child support is made through wage assignment, which goes directly from the Payer’s paycheck to the CSEA which then forward the payment to the Payee. This is the case for the vast majority of child support payments in Hawaii. Payment may be made directly from the Payer to the Payee, but both parties must agree to such an arrangement in writing.

Child Support Modification. Child support, after being established, is always eligible for modification, based upon: (1) increase or decrease in the income of Payer or Payee; (2) a change in the child care expenses or the child’s medical insurance premiums; or (3) a smaller number of children receiving child support (one or more of the children having become ineligible for support).

These factors, among others, may cause a change in the Payer’s monthly child support obligation.

Child support in Hawaii can be modified at: (1) the Family Court (“judicially”); or (2) the Child Support Enforcement Agency (“administratively”). Pursuing a modification in the Family Court requires the filing of a motion (a request to the Court), while pursuing a modification at CSEA requires filling out an Application for Services with the Agency. There are pluses and minuses to both routes – going through the Family Court is usually faster, often is more complicated for unrepresented parties, and can bring in other non-child support issues, such as custody or visitation. Going through CSEA is typically slower, but is designed to be easier for people who are unrepresented, and is limited to discussing child support and medical insurance only.

Collection Back Child Support. Missed child support payments accumulating over months or even years, can add up to very significant amounts (often referred to as support arrears or arrearage). Parents who are owed back support payments from the other parent, similar to the prior section regarding modifying child support, can pursue through (1) judicially, filing in Family Court; or (2) administratively through CSEA. While going through CSEA is free of charge, it often results in less aggressive repayment than going through the courts. CSEA does however, have certain weapons at its disposal, such as the ability to suspend driver’s licenses and professional licenses, as well as the ability to withhold federal tax returns.

Pursuing the matter through courts can, if successful, result in more aggressive repayment plans by way of obtaining a judgment for the child support arrearage, then garnishing the owing parent’s wages/salary to pay that judgment.

​Give Coates Frey Tanimoto & Gibson a call at 808-524-4854 to discuss how it might affect you we can run some projected calculations for you, and the call is free of charge. You can also reach us online.