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What are Family Court Records in Hawai'i?
Hawai'i family court records contain information on cases filed, tried, and determined before the state’s family courts. They provide general case information, as well as details of notices, summons, memorandum, orders, dockets, citations, exhibits, waivers, pleas, oral arguments, sworn affidavit, witness testimonies, transcripts, and other case-specific information, recorded manually or in electronic format during family court proceedings.
What Cases are Heard by Hawai'i Family Courts?
The Hawaii State Judiciary is organized into various branches, each hearing specific types of cases within their allocated powers. The family courts are courts of exclusive jurisdiction broken into four circuits located in Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai respectively. These unified courts are tasked with the duty of handling cases involving families and children. Cases heard in Hawaii Family Courts include:
- Domestic matters pertaining to divorce, alimony, separation, and annulment
- Domestic contention involving paternity rights such as child custody, visitation, and child support
- Domestic violence, child neglect, violation of restraining order, and other family-related criminal cases
- Cases pertaining to adoption, child welfare services, guardianship, termination of parental rights, and other related matters
- Criminal cases involving legal minors and juveniles as well as the issuance of temporary restraining orders.
As per the Hawaii Court Record Rule, court records are generally managed and released by the clerk of the court where the case was heard. Thus, the state’s family court clerks maintain records of cases heard within their jurisdiction. In instances, where the verdict of the family courts has been appealed at the state Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, the revised record may also be managed by the clerk of the applicable appellate court.
What is Included in Hawai'i Family Court Records?
The information featured in family court records generally provides a detailed account of the court’s litigation processes. Typically, these records include general and specific case information which provides citizens with the legal know-how on family-related cases and how they are handled. The information detailed on family court records generally include:
- The biodata and personal information of the plaintiff and defendant (if applicable)
- Case information including the case type, case filing date, case number, case status, etc
- Details of court proceedings including notices, warrants (as in the case of domestic violence and contempt of court), motions, court appearances, and oral arguments, and witness testimonies
- Information pertaining to admissible evidence, sworn affidavit, and witness testimonies
- Relevant documents presented by expert witnesses including Child Welfare Services and authorized medical personnel
- Details of court’s final disposition and judgment along with jail times (if applicable), penalties, fines, protective orders, and awarded rights granted to either party. This may also include details of spousal entitlement and child support, child custody conditions, and visitation information
Are Family Court Records Public in the state of Hawai'i?
Grounded on the Hawai'i Court Records Rule, most family court records may be inspected or copied by members of the public. Typically, it is the duty of the court clerk to generate, store, and release these records upon request. The clerks are also tasked with the duty of restricting access to sealed and confidential family court records. As provided by law, confidential records are automatically sealed by statute or subsequently restricted by a court order/rule upon request by eligible parties. Sensitive information revealing the personal identification numbers, financial numbers, passwords, social security numbers, tax returns, etc are statutorily protected from public scrutiny. Other confidential records include:
- Parts of any record containing the personal and contact information of a child or minor
- Portions or parts of any record revealing identifying information on a domestic violence victim
- Records of parental right proceedings such as adoption and guardianship records along with records containing details of termination of parental rights
- Records of files and documents issued by child protective services, adoption agencies, and public protective service institution during the proceeding
- Psychological and mental health evaluation records
Where there are sufficient reasons to have a record unsealed, a requestor may petition the court to obtain a court order authorizing access to the record of interest.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in Hawai'i?
In compliance with the Hawai'i Court Record Rule, the state judiciary created accessible channels through which interested parties can view, and/or obtain copies of court records upon request. The available channels include:
- By researching the online databases maintained in the different court websites or in third-party aggregate sites
- By making in-person requests to the court custodian
- By sending written mail-in requests to the appropriate court
How To Find Hawai'i Family Court Records Online?
To enhance accessibility and reduce the in-court workload, the administrative arm of the court created online mediums from which the public can inspect and view family court records over the internet. Essentially, these online resources are available in a unified database as well as in some judicial district managed repositories. Given the restrictions on family court records, only adult family cases are available via this route. As per the court rule, family cases involving juveniles are typically restricted from unauthorized inspection. The available services include:
- eCourt Kokua Online Portal
- Ho`ohiki Case Search database
The eCourt Kokua Online Portal portal provides information and case documents on all family court criminal adult cases. Users are required to provide the case ID to view and inspect these records. If regular or certified copies are also needed, inquirers are required to follow the user protocols. The fee schedule includes $3 per regular document or 10 cents per page, and $2 per certified copy (if applicable).
The Hoohiki Case Search Database allows remote access to all family civil cases filed in the state court. Although copies cannot be ordered from this portal, the following information is provided; case titles, party and document lists, as well as court minutes list.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How to Access Hawai'i Family Court Records in Person?
Querying parties may also access Hawaii's family court records by physically visiting the courthouse in person. In accordance with the Hawaii Court Rule, family civil cases and juvenile family criminal cases may be partly or wholly available via online databases. As such, they can only be obtained in person. To successfully request access via this channel, the following steps are recommended:
Step 1: Find the Record Custodian
The various court clerks are responsible for generating, managing, and disseminating civil court records. As a standard rule for looking up civil court records in person, the requesting party should locate the custodian of the particular court in which the case was heard.
Step 2: Gather All Relevant Information
Requestors are required to gather important and specific information and documents pertaining to the record of interest. The needed information includes the case number, the approximate date the case was filed, the appellate case number (if applicable), and a valid government-issued photo ID.
Step 3: Visit the Courthouse, Request for the Record and Pay the Applicable Fees
During normal working days and hours, requestors are required to visit the office of the record custodians with the appropriate documents and information. Depending on the court, a form may be provided to facilitate the request. If not available, the requesting party will need to provide a written request.
How to Obtain Hawaii Family Court Records via Mail?
Application forms, mailing details, as well as the cost for coping official court records, can be found on most court websites. While the rules vary with different clerks, most courts require a physical address for mailing records. Payment for records may be made by credit card or check. Interested parties are advised to include a self-addressed stamped return envelope. Additionally, obtaining records by mail may take 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the court and the difficulty in finding the record.
Specialized Family Court Records
In addition to maintaining and disseminating records of family court cases and proceedings or trial transcripts, Hawaii family courts generate and issue a variety of court decrees, orders, and records. These documents perform a variety of functions including legal authorization for marriage dissolutions, adoptions and child custody as well as will execution and the issuance of financial claims. Like court records, these documents may be made available to interested and eligible persons. However, the eligibility requirements for accessing these vary among counties.
How to Obtain Divorce Records in the State of Hawaii
Interested persons can view and inspect divorce records by contacting the record custodian and providing the basic information specific to the record in question such as case number, party names, place of divorce, and approximate date of divorce. Hawaii's divorce records are considered public records and as such, can be viewed and obtained by anyone. Records pertaining to divorce, annulment, and termination of reciprocal relationships are managed and disseminated by the particular court where the case was heard (circuit court). The state judiciary maintains an online portal known as Ho`ohiki Case Search where inquirers can view some details pertaining to a divorce. Divorce records can also be found in person or by mail by contacting the particular court.