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AC v. AC

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

July 30, 2013

AC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
AC, Defendant-Appellant, and CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, STATE OF HAWAI'I, Defendant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER

APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (FC-P NO. 11-1-6307)

ON THE BRIEFS:

M. Cora Avinante Michael S. Gehrt (pro hac vice)(Dickstein Shapiro LLP)for Defendant-Appellant.

Michael A. Glenn for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Reifurth and Ginoza, JJ. with Nakamura, C.J., dissenting separately

SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER

Defendant-Appellant AC (Mother), appeals from the "Order Re: Custody[, ] Visitation[, ] and Support Orders After Voluntary Establishment of Paternity, " (Order Re: Custody) filed on August 23, 2012, in the Family Court of the First Circuit.[1]The Order Re: Custody awarded Plaintiff-Appellee AC (Father), among other things, legal and physical custody of the couple's Son and Daughter, subject to Mother's rights of reasonable visitation.

On appeal, Mother contends that the family court erred by enforcing time limits at trial. Upon careful review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties and having given due consideration to the arguments advanced and the issues raised by the parties, as well as the relevant statutory and case law, we affirm the family court's Order Re: Custody.

On appeal, Mother asserts that the family court abused its discretion when it restricted trial to three hours. Although Mother acknowledges that the family court has the authority to set reasonable time limits and control the litigation process, she argues that she was prevented from presenting evidence of family violence, which was "critical testimony bearing upon the best interests of [Son] and [Daughter]."

It is well-established that "courts have inherent equity, supervisory, and administrative powers as well as inherent power to control the litigation process before them." Richardson v. Sport Shinko (Waikiki Corp.), 76 Hawai'i 494, 507, 880 P.2d 169, 182 (1994). The court has discretion to control the "mode and order of interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence" and to set reasonable time limits. Doe v. Doe, 98 Hawai'i 144, 155, 44 P.3d 1085, 1096 (2002); Hawaii Rules of Evidence (HRE) Rule 611.

Moreover, "the family court possesses wide discretion in making its decisions and those decision[s] will not be set aside unless there is a manifest abuse of discretion." Fisher v. Fisher, 111 Hawai'i 41, 46, 137 P.3d 355, 360 (2006). In addition, it is the province of the family court to rule on the credibility of witnesses and the weight of the evidence. Id.

In custody disputes, the court is guided in its decision-making by the principle of the "best interests of the child." Doe v. Doe, 98 Hawai'i at 155, 44 P.3d at 1096. Pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 571-46 (Supp. 2012), the presence of family violence bears upon the court's custody decision:

In every proceeding where there is at issue a dispute as to the custody of a child, a determination by the court that family violence has been committed by a parent raises a rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint ...

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