My child was born nearly three and a half years ago at the birthing unit of North Hawaii Community Hospital. Although I have taught children for many years, the night that my daughter was born was also the birth of my new life as a father. In the morning, as the sun rose behind Mauna Kea, I lay on the bed in room 205 of the birthing center with my newborn child sleeping on my chest. I distinctly remember coming to a realization — making a sort of unspoken promise: “You, dear daughter, have come at last! You’re here! And as your dad, from here on out, my work is to protect you. And I will. To the best of my ability, I surely will.”
While that reads back as sort of corny, I suspect that other fathers reading this who have been deeply involved in the birth of their children have felt this sort of account of our human nature: our human love.
We raised our beautiful daughter at our homestead up on an acre of hand-cleared ‘ohia forest. As I had begun developing this property and building this home fifteen years ago, the fruit trees have matured and the home is rather fine-tuned and debt-free. Attachment-style parenting and the good fortune to have ample time to participate in my daughter’s life, coupled with our island’s exceptional environment, meant that she has thrived.
However, as parents of a two-year-old child will not find surprising; life at home entails considerably more dirty diapers, meal preparation, napping strategies, baby-activities, baby-bathing, and storybook reading, than it does composing endless love poems or any of the other delights of romance. Upon one of the many trips that I’d encouraged my partner to take to visit her parents in the Midwest, she chose to have an affair with a married practicing licensed clinical social worker. Both participants further stated to me that they were “profoundly in love with each other”. That, at best, struck me as a very real complication to what had been our very together and functional little family. My child’s mother’s decision to have an affair was hardly aligned with my child’s best interests. And yet, this certainly wasn’t a ‘deal-breaker’ as far as I was concerned and we attended counseling sessions in Hilo to try and resolve our problems — to heal as a family.
As I’ve written of the circumstances following this sequence of events (see: Letters — An Open Letter To Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, About Custodial Interference), I’ll try to not be redundant. Where that post left off was: myself faced with paying half of a ten thousand dollar custody evaluation as determined in the Family Court, as well as my effort to seek justice for my daughter and me through law enforcement. I contend that when her mother chose to retain our daughter at her parents’ home, contrary to our agreement that she and our daughter were visiting with a very definite itinerary to return to Hawaii; by any reasonable interpretation of Hawaii statutory law HRS §707-726, she committed custodial interference, a felony violation meant to deter such an abuse of a child/parent bond.
From the beginning of this ordeal, I have been very clear to all involved that it is not at all in my child’s best interest for her mother to go to prison. Hawaiian law, particularly the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), recognizes this and provides for law enforcement of such family abuse violations, while at the same time minimizing further trauma to the child and parent. My child ideally needs both parents highly cooperative in her upbringing.
To update me and my daughter’s situation: I’ve raised the five thousand dollars and I await the evaluation of me, my home, and of my parenting. Whether disproving the false allegations will lead to my child being returned, I really don’t know. Unfortunately, for the portion of the evaluation whereby my daughter will temporarily return to Hawaii — where our parent/child relationship is evaluated — we are apparently expected to repair our bond in a matter of weeks, after these 15 months of forced estrangement. All I can do is hope that this is not yet another burden that has been successfully shifted onto me and my daughter through this improper taking of my child.
“Your child wasn’t taken.”
This was the justification that the deputy prosecutor gave me for why he believes that a violation of custodial interference hasn’t occurred. Additionally, he indicated to me that I “gave my consent” to my child being taken from her home and father in Hawaii some fifteen months ago when I drove my child and her mother to the Hilo airport to see them off on an agreed upon visit to my child’s maternal grandparent’s home. For Hawaii Island parents with concerns of such a scenario occurring in their children’s lives take note: You drive your partner and your child to the airport. You send them off on a visit to the mainland. You find out later you were tricked and that they aren’t returning as planned. Your child wasn’t taken and you gave your consent. This is apparently the status quo in Hawaii county.
My daughter and I have now essentially served a sentence amounting to the two of us being entirely separated from one another for over one-third of her life. What I don’t understand is why some type of evaluation could not have been made initially to verify the utter falsity of the allegations that were made to oppose my motion that my child be returned. Surely drug-testing me and inspecting my home could have been done much more easily, but more importantly, with much less injury to my daughter’s and my bond as well as the financial drain on our family’s economy.
Hawaii statutory laws of custodial interference are in place to avoid this type of abuse. Not acknowledging violations of this law rewards the violator and punishes the victims, often including innocent children such as my daughter.
To members of our community who have expressed their sympathies and have shared their mana’o concerning me and my child’s crises; your thoughts and help is deeply appreciated. Mahalo.