Hawaii Child Support Laws and FAQs

An overview of Hawaii child support laws. Find answers to your most pressing questions such as how child support is calculated, modified, and more.

Hawaii Child Support

Who Must Pay Child Support in Hawaii?

Both parents are responsible for supporting their children in Hawaii.  Typically, child support is paid to a parent with custody of a child.

The parent that makes child support payments is referred to as the payor.  In Hawaii, the Child Support Enforcement Agency refers to them as the Responsible Parent. The parent who receives the support payments is called the payee or Custodial Parent.

How is Child Support Determined in Hawaii?

Hawaii uses statewide Child Support Guidelines to determine how much support a parent must pay.  To use the guidelines, you must know both parents’ incomes and the child custody arrangement. A parent’s gross and net income amounts are both relevant for child support calculations.

Gross monthly incomes are regular income from all sources, including salary, wages, bonuses and commissions, overtime pay, pensions, royalties, military pay and allowances, and alimony.

After both parents’ gross income is determined, deductions include paid spousal support, preexisting child support, social security, and state and federal income taxes. You might qualify for additional deductions depending on your work, and you could take certain credits for things like health insurance premiums already paid.

You also need to know how much time each parent will spend with the child before you can calculate support.

The child support guidelines calculate support differently if the parents share equal time (the child stays with each parent 50% of the time), close to equal time (where the child stays with the noncustodial parent between 143 and 183 nights a year), or have a split custody arrangement (where the parents divide the kids between them, for example, mom takes the older child while dad has the younger child).

Once you’ve determined both parents’ net income and custody arrangements, you are ready to use the child support guidelines, plugging numbers into a child support worksheet.  The worksheet serves as the child support formula to create a basic support amount. The Court can deviate from the CSGW if one of ten exceptions to the Guidelines exists.

Factors that May Impact Child Support in Hawaii

If you provided accurate information to locate the other parent, a case could be completed in two to three months. If there are problems serving the person or genetic tests are conducted, that could delay the action another several months.

Hawaii’s child support guidelines assume that the non-custodial parent will have up to 143 days per year of “visitation” with the child. If the time-sharing plan provides more, the non-custodial parent gets a pro rata reduction for each day beyond 143. If the time-sharing plan provides equal time to both parents, another set of computations can significantly reduce child support.

Other factors that can have an impact on the amount of child support include:

  • The earning potential, reasonable necessities, and borrowing capacity of both parents
  • The needs of the child
  • How much public assistance would be paid for the child under the needs established by the department
  • Other dependents under the obligor parent
  • Incentives for both parents to work
  • To balance the standard of living of both the parents and child
  • To avoid huge, unfair changes in either parent’s income

If a parent is considered underemployed, the court may base child support obligation on that parent’s earning capacity through an imputation of income. Imputing income simply means acting as if a parent has a certain amount of income, regardless of whether they actually do. An income imputation typically involves assessing past work records, skills, education, job market conditions, and other factors to calculate income.

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Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?

Federal and Hawaii law now requires that the CSEA notify non-custodial parents’ employers to enroll dependent children in health care coverage.

The law requires employers to honor standardized federal National Medical Support Notice (NMSN). It is sent when an order is established and whenever the parents change employment. When medical support is ordered, CSEA will send the NMSN to the employer along with instructions for complying with the order.

The NMSN directs an employer with a family health care coverage option available to the employee to enroll the children from this court case.  Coverage must take place immediately.

Parents can contest medical coverage by requesting an administrative review, but only based on whether or not the health care coverage is available at a reasonable cost.

When Does Child Support End in Hawaii?

Child support is ordered for children up to 18 or up to 23 if the child is enrolled full-time in an accredited college, university, vocational, or trade school.  Full-time is defined as the equivalent of 12 credit hours in school.

If a child is enrolled in post-high school education and still living with the custodial parent, then child support simply continues to the custodial parent.  If the child is not living with the custodial parent and living independently, then child support may be routed directly to the child for their living expenses.

Child support can end early if the child emancipates, gets married, joins the military, or passes away.

Establishing Paternity in Hawaii

Legal paternity must be established before a child support order can be issued.  A man is presumed to be the father when a couple is married and the mother gives birth, but when a woman is not married, no legal father is automatically determined.  CSEA can help men establish paternity through Voluntary Establishment.  You may write, visit, or call the Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency at one of the branch locations to request an application.

When a man is not sure, or the mother refuses to establish paternity this way, the court may order genetic testing, which will either confirm or deny the man as a child’s father leading to a paternity judgment.  CSEA has a contract with a certified laboratory to provide DNA testing in its cases at a reasonable cost.

Enforcing Hawaii Child Support Orders

When a parent fails to meet the child support obligation, the CSEA takes action to enforce the order. Federal and state laws provide the agency with remedies to encourage compliance. The state’s automated child support system automatically initiates most enforcement activities. The custodial parent does not need to contact the agency to request enforcement.

The following are the enforcement tools available to CSEA:

  • Income Withholding
  • State Tax Refund Setoff Program
  • Federal Tax Refund Offset Program
  • Administrative Offset Program
  • Passport Denial Program
  • Financial Institution Data Match
  • Credit Bureau Reporting
  • Liens
  • License Suspension Process
  • Medical Support Enforcement

Parents who are owed back child support payments from the other parent can pursue collection judicially by filing in Family Court or administratively through CSEA.

Going through CSEA is free of charge, but it often results in less aggressive repayment than going through the courts.  Pursuing the matter through courts can result in more aggressive repayment plans by obtaining a judgment for the child support arrearage, then implementing wage garnishment of the owing parent’s wages to pay that judgment.

Modifying Hawaii Child Support Payments

A child support order may be modified if a change in the circumstances of either parent has occurred since the support order was initially issued or at least three years have passed since the order was last reviewed for a modification.  Changes can include an increase or decrease in income, a change in child expenses, fewer children eligible for support, and other similar circumstances.

The party seeking the modification may start the process by going through the Family Court or applying for services with the CSEA. When applying for services with the CSEA, the modification request must be made in writing and submitted with detailed current financial information. The CSEA uses an administrative process where administrative hearings officers from the Office of Child Support Hearings issue decisions relating to child support.

The request for an administrative hearing must be made within 30 days of being served with the proposed administrative order.  The administrative hearings officer issues an order after a hearing or as a result of an uncontested action filed with the Family Court.

Until the modified administrative order is signed and filed, the prior child support order continues to be in effect.

Calculating child support requires using the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines set a minimum child support amount of $83.00 per child per month. The Guidelines must be followed unless the Family Court, CSEA, or administrative hearings officer finds an exceptional circumstance that allows for the departure from the Guidelines amount.

Child support in Hawaii can also be modified judicially at the Family Court.  This action requires filing a motion, and the process is faster than going through CSEA.  However, it is often more complicated for unrepresented parties and can bring other non-child support issues, such as custody or visitation.

Child Support and Taxes

Child support payments are not deductible by the paying parent or taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.

However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.

Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents can alternate years claiming a child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.

How Do I Ask for Child Support?

Child support orders can be established, modified, or terminated by the Family Court or the CSEA. While the Family Court uses the judicial process when issuing orders, the CSEA utilizes an administrative process where hearings officers from the Office of Child Support Hearings issue decisions relating to child support.  An administrative hearings officer issues a child support order after a hearing or as a result of an uncontested action filed with the Family Court.

Administrative orders have the same force and effect as the orders issued by the Family Court.

Orders for child support may be obtained when one or both parents are not providing financial support for their children.  They can be issued at any time during a physical separation of the parents, during a divorce, or when the children receive certain public assistance from the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services.

To request support, you can use these forms:

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Which Agency Handles Child Support in Hawaii?

The State of Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) oversees child support issues in the state.  It is a division in the Department of the Attorney General and works in partnership with the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement and other State and local agencies.

Offices are located throughout the islands:

On the island of O`ahu:
Oahu Child Support Enforcement Agency
Kakuhihewa Building
601 Kamokila Boulevard, Suite 251
Kapolei, Hawai`i 96707

Oahu Family Support Branch:
680 Iwilei Road, Suite 400
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96817

On the island of Hawaii:
Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency
Waiakea Kai Shopping Plaza
88 Kanoelehua Avenue, Suite #202
Hilo, Hawai`i 96720

Hawaii Family Support Branch (Hilo)
688 Kino`ole Street, Suite 214
Hilo, Hawai`i 96720

Hawaii Family Support Branch (Kona)
81-941 Haleki`i Street
Kealakekua, Hawai`i 96750

On the islands of Maui, Moloka`i, and Lana`i:
Maui Child Support Enforcement Agency
35 Lunalilo Street, Suite 201
Wailuku, Hawai`i 96793

Maui Family Support Branch
35 Lunalilo Street, Suite 203
Wailuku, Hawai`i 96793

On the island of Kaua`i:
Kaua`i Child Support Enforcement Agency
4370 Kukui Grove St, Suite 204
Lihu`e, Hawai`i 96766

CSEA Offices Walk-in/Telephone Hours are 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday.

CSEA also operates an account information system/call center.  To reach the center instate, call  (808) 207-9915.  Out-of-state callers may call toll-free at (888) 314-0037.

CSEA serves as the clearinghouse for child support payments. Under Hawai’i law, child support is made through wage assignment, which goes directly from the Payor’s paycheck to the CSEA, who forwards the payment to the Payee. Payments can be made directly from the Payor to the Payee, but both parties must agree in writing. You can learn about payment options here.

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