What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Hawaii?
This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting an order for protection from family court.
Hawaii law defines “domestic abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following things between family or household members:
- coercive control, which is defined as a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating actions that are committed to harm, punish, or frighten you or to make you dependent on the abuser by isolating you from support, taking away your independence, and controlling your everyday behavior, including:
- isolating you from friends and family;
- controlling how much money you can have and how you spend it;
- monitoring your activities, communications, and movements;
- calling you names and putting you down;
- threatening to harm or kill you, your child, or relative;
- threatening to publish information or make reports to the police or the authorities;
- damaging property or household goods; or
- forcing you to take part in criminal activity or child abuse;
- physical harm/ bodily injury/ assault;
- the threat of imminent physical harm/ bodily injury/ assault;
- extreme psychological abuse (ongoing behavior/actions towards you that seriously disturbs or continually bothers you and has no purpose, causing you extreme emotional distress);
- malicious property damage (purposely causing damage to your property to try and cause you emotional distress); and/or
- sexual offenses committed by an adult against a child which include:
- sexual assault in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degrees;
- continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of fourteen;
- indecent exposure;
- promoting child abuse in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees;
- electronic enticement of a child in the 1st and 2nd degrees; and
- indecent electronic display to a child.1
1 HRS § 586-1
What types of orders for protection are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of orders for protection that can be issued by the family court in cases of domestic abuse.
Temporary restraining orders (TRO). A temporary restraining order can be granted at the time you apply for your order for protection without prior notice to the abuser and without him/her being present in court.1 It is valid for up to 180 days or until a final order for protection becomes effective, whichever happens first. Generally, a hearing on the TRO will take place within 15 days. At the hearing, the abuser can try to prove (“show cause”) why the TRO should be discontinued.2 For information on the protections you can get in a TRO, see How can an order for protection help me?
Note: Although Hawaii does not have an emergency order that can be filed when courts are closed, the law does empower the police to issue a similar “order.” A police officer who is investigating an allegation of abuse of a family/household member can order the abuser to leave the home for a “period of separation.” During this time, it is illegal for the abuser to initiate any contact with you, either by telephone or in person. The “period of separation” lasts until 6:00 p.m. on the second business day following the day the order was issued; the day the order is issued is not counted when calculating the two business days.3 For more information, you can read the whole law on our Selected Hawaii Statutes page.
Final order for protection. At the hearing that takes place approximately 15 days after getting your TRO, the judge can give you an order for protection for a longer amount of time if the judge believes that:
- the abuser did not prove (“show cause”) why the order should be discontinued; and
- the order for protection is necessary to prevent domestic abuse from happening or from re-occurring.4
If a temporary or final order for protection prevents the respondent from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing a minor, the order can be extended until a date soon after the minor turns 18.5
If your situation does not fit the requirements for a family court order, you may request an injunction against harassment from the district court. For more information, please see our Injunctions Against Harassment (District Court) page.
1 HRS § 586-4(a)
2 HRS § 586-5(a), (b)
3 HRS § 709-906(4)(b)
4 HRS § 586-5.5(a)
5 HRS §§ 586-5(a); 586-5.5(a)
Where can I file for an order for protection?
You can file for an order for protection in the family court in the circuit where:
- the petitioner lives or is temporarily located;
- the subject of the petition, if s/he is a minor or incapactiated person, lives or is temporarily located;
- the respondent lives; or
- the domestic abuse occurred.1
Go to our Hawaii Courthouse Locations page for addresses and phone numbers of the courthouses. If you want help, you may want to contact an attorney. Please see our Hawaii Finding a Lawyer page for more information.
1 HRS § 586-2
What protections can I get in an order for protection due to domestic abuse?
In a temporary order for protection due to domestic abuse, which can be issued when you file for an order for protection, a judge can order the abuser to:
- stop threatening, contacting, hurting, and psychologically abusing you or any person living with you;
- not enter or visit your home;
- immediately leave (vacate) your residence if you live together;
- not take, hide, get rid of, threaten, or physically abuse any animal belonging to the household; (Note: You can be ordered to follow these restrictions regarding the animal as well);
- not contact, threaten, or physically abuse you at your place of work;
- not contact, threaten, or physically abuse your children at school; and
- not intentionally damage your property or the property of family or household members.1
In an order for protection due to domestic abuse, a judge can:
- order all of the protections listed above; and
- order the following additional protections:
- establish temporary visitation and custody for your minor children, which may include supervised visitation or no visitation;
- take part in domestic violence intervention services; and you may be ordered to participate as well;
- grant other reasonable requests that the judge believes are necessary in order for you to be free from the violence;2
- order your wireless phone provider to:
- transfer a shared cell phone account that you share with the abuser into your name alone; or
- remove/release you from a shared wireless plan and assign a substitute telephone number or numbers. Either must be done without charge, penalty, or fee.3 You can read more about this law on our Selected Hawaii Statutes page. (Note: A victim of domestic violence can also request this directly from the wireless service provider even without having an order of protection.4 You can read the requirements in the law on our Selected Hawaii Statutes page.)
Note: Hawaii law makes it illegal for someone who has an ex parte or final order for protection against him/her to have a firearm as long as the order prohibits the abuser from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing you or anyone named in the order.5 The abuser is supposed to hand over all firearms and ammunition to the police department for safekeeping while the order is in effect. For more information, see Can the abuser have a gun?
1 HRS § 586-4(a),(c); see petition for an order of protection (for example, in the First Circuit)
2 HRS § 586-5.5(a); see petition for an order of protection (for example, in the First Circuit)
3 HRS § 586-5.8(a)
4 HRS § 269-16.93
5 HRS § 134-7(f)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.