Tumaneng v. TumanengAnnotate this Case
In this custody dispute regarding Son, Mother moved to modify custody terms contained in a divorce decree, alleging that circumstances had changed because Father planned to move Son to Arizona. The family court ultimately found that Mother failed to establish a material change in circumstance since Father’s relocation was contemplated at the time the decree was entered and that it was still in Son’s best interest to live with Father. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that the family court properly excluded Mother’s proffered evidence of Father’s pre-decree domestic violence on relevance grounds because the evidence was not related to the material change in circumstances preliminarily found to exist by the family court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the family court erred in excluding the evidence of Father’s pre-decree domestic violence as, (1) in Waldecker v. O’Scanlon, the Court overruled several ICA cases that suggested that a material change in circumstances was required before a court can modify a custody order according to the best interests of the child; and (2) in order to determine Son’s actual best interests as mandated by Haw. Rev. Stat. 571-46, the family court was required to address the specific and direct allegations of domestic violence before making its custody determination.