Kiana only wanted one thing: to get full legal and physical custody of her son.
“I didn't know what process to take to reach my outcome,” said Kiana, who also did not have the finances to hire a lawyer. She was desperate when she called Legal Aid in January 2021.
Legal Aid Staff Attorney Mary Pascual quickly mailed all necessary documents to process the custody case, giving detailed instructions to file everything.
The goal was to serve the custody papers to the child’s father as soon as possible, so Kiana strived to search for him through a process server.
But he was nowhere to be found; he had disappeared! (Prior to this, Kiana had a TRO served against him because he was abusive.)
In October, Kiana contacted Legal Aid a second time for help.
“She was worried she won’t be able to serve him,” said Mary, “and she was scared that he would try to fight for custody.”
Legal Aid staff teamed up with Kiana to find the father, seeking out a process server to help in the search as they reached out to his mother, siblings, and employers, as well as utilized people search websites.
“When the other party doesn’t show up and you showed that you tried everything, then she wins by default,” said Mary.
Finally, in May 2022, Kiana did win at the custody hearing – her son’s father did not appear in court.
“Kiana emailed me that she was crying after she was given full custody of her son,” Mary recalled. “She couldn’t believe that she got everything she wanted. She was super happy. I think it gives her a sense of relief that the dad can’t just come back and take him from her.”
Having full legal custody, not just physical custody, means Kiana will not need to contact her son’s father for important decisions like education, religion and medical care.
“I am so grateful for the support and help,” she said. “Attorney Mary Pascual helped me personally and I can't thank her and her staff enough. They are quick to respond and have very friendly staff. Legal Aid will always be there for you and help you in any way possible.”
Now, Kiana knows her son is safe with no visitation rights from his father. Her son also now carries her last name.
“Legal Aid Hawaii helped me with everything,” said Kiana. “Legal Aid helped me gain confidence of my situation and gave me the tools, resources and guidance I needed for a smooth legal process.”
“The great part of this story is that it was a case that involved domestic violence, and she was able to get what she wanted,” Mary said. “There are times when parents want full physical custody, but they can’t because the other parent objects. Kiana was lucky and I am really happy for her.”