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Finding Court Records in Hawaii

Hawaii Courts Overview

It helps to understand how the Hawaii state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Hawaii trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, District Courts, Family Courts, Land Courts, and Tax Appeal Court.

The trial court system in Hawaii is primarily divided into Circuit Courts and District Courts. Family Courts are divisions of Circuit Courts and District Courts. Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over most civil and criminal cases, but generally only handle cases beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. District Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. The Land Court and The Tax Appeal Court each have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases.

If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Hawaii courts by county.

Hawaii Circuit Courts

Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, including jury trials. Circuit Courts generally handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.

Cases typically handled in Circuit Courts include felony criminal cases, general civil cases with more than $10,000 in dispute, domestic relations, probate matters, guardianships, juvenile matters and abuse prevention.

Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most felony criminal cases, all probate cases, and most guardianship cases. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with Family Court divisions over certain types of cases, including certain criminal felony cases and guardianship cases for incapacitated adults.

Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most civil cases with more than $20,000 in dispute, exclusive of fees, costs and interest. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with District Courts over civil cases with amounts in dispute between $10,000 and $20,000, exclusive of fees, costs and interest.

Circuit Courts and District Courts share some jurisdiction over family law cases. Family Courts are divisions in Circuit Courts and District Courts, but most Family Court cases are heard in Circuit Courts. A Circuit Family Court judge may assign cases to a District Family Court division.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over divorce, child support, paternity, guardianship of children and adults, civil commitment and cases related to domestic violence, including requests for domestic abuse protective orders and some criminal cases.

Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile matters, including juvenile delinquency, child neglect, truancy, juvenile curfew violations, child custody, guardianship of a child, adoption, termination of parental rights, and judicial consent to marriage, employment, or enlistment of a child when such consent is required by law. Circuit Courts have a Girls Court for some cases involving female juvenile offenders.

Criminal cases handled by Family Courts include offenses committed against a child by a child’s parent or legal custodian, desertion, abandonment, failure to provide support, non-felony cases against a spouse, and violations of Domestic Abuse Protective Orders. Family Courts share criminal jurisdiction with Circuit Courts and District Courts. A Family Court may transfer certain types of cases to other courts under certain circumstances.

Hawaii District Courts

District Courts do not offer jury trials and have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. For cases with a right to a jury, a proper jury trial request will transfer the case to Circuit Court.

Criminal cases generally handled by District Courts include misdemeanors, county ordinance violations and traffic infractions. District Courts share some jurisdiction with Family Court divisions over certain types of criminal cases, and a Family Court may transfer criminal cases to a District Court under certain circumstances.

District Courts also have authority to issue restraining orders against harassment. Each District Court has a Family Court division that handles domestic relations cases assigned by a Circuit Family Court division judge.

District Courts have jurisdiction over most civil cases when the amount in dispute is less than $20,000, excluding fees, costs and interest. This financial limit does not apply to most landlord-tenant cases.

District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most civil cases when the amount in dispute is less than $10,000, excluding fees, costs and interest.

Each District Court has a Small Claims division with jurisdiction over civil cases involving the recovery of less than $3,500, exclusive of interest and costs. Small Claims divisions also handle landlord-tenant security deposit disputes and disputes over the return of rented or leased property worth $3,500 or less when the amount claimed in the case is less than $3,500, exclusive of interest and costs.

Small Claims divisions cannot award punitive damages or hear class action lawsuits. Small Claims divisions can grant some equitable relief in landlord-tenant cases, including orders for repairs to rented property. When a case is eligible for the Small Claims division, the Plaintiff has the option to file in District Court to take advantage of the regular court procedures.

In addition to jury trials, District Courts also cannot handle other certain types of cases, including disputes over title to real estate, libel, slander, defamation of character, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and other certain types of cases.

Generally, cases within the jurisdiction of a Family Court division will be heard in Circuit Court, but a Circuit Family Court judge may assign cases to a District Family Court division.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over divorce, child support, paternity, guardianship of children and adults, civil commitment and other cases authorized by law. In addition, Family Courts handle cases related to Domestic Violence, including but not limited to requests for Domestic Abuse protective orders and certain criminal cases that involve allegations of domestic violence.

Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases that include but are not limited to juvenile delinquency, child neglect, truancy, juvenile curfew violations, child custody, guardianship of a child, adoption, termination of parental rights, and judicial consent to marriage, employment, or enlistment.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over some criminal cases, including offenses committed against a child by a child’s parent or legal custodian, desertion, abandonment, failure to provide support, non-felony cases against a spouse, and violations of Domestic Abuse Protective Orders.

Hawaii Family Courts

Family Courts are divisions of Circuit Courts and District Courts. Most Family Court cases are heard in Circuit Courts, but a Circuit Family Court judge may assign cases to a District Family Court division.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over divorce, child support, paternity, guardianship of children and adults, civil commitment and cases related to domestic violence, including requests for domestic abuse protective orders and certain criminal cases.

Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over many juvenile matters, including juvenile delinquency, child neglect, truancy, juvenile curfew violations, child custody, guardianship of a child, adoption, termination of parental rights, and judicial consent to marriage, employment, or enlistment.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over some criminal cases, including offenses committed against a child by a child’s parent or legal custodian, desertion, abandonment, failure to provide support, non-felony cases against a spouse, and violations of Domestic Abuse Protective Orders. Family Court divisions share jurisdiction with Circuit Courts and District Courts over certain criminal offenses, and may transfer certain types of cases to other courts under certain circumstances.

Hawaii Land Courts

The Land Court handles cases related to the registration of title to land, some rights that may be associated with land and cases authorized by the Land Court Registration statute.

The Land Court handles cases for the entire state and is located in Honolulu County at the First Circuit Court.

Hawaii Tax Appeal Court

The Tax Appeal Court handles appeals of real property taxation decisions and other issues related to real property taxes. Jury trials are not available in this court.

The Tax Appeal Court handles cases for the entire state and is located in Honolulu County at the First Circuit Court.

Hawaii Court Notes

The Hawaii Court system has four territorial circuits that are referred to as the First, Second, Third and Fifth Circuits. The Fourth Circuit was abolished when it was incorporated into the Third Circuit in 1943.

Where to Find Court Cases in Hawaii

The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Hawaii court.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases Some Cases  
General Civil - Limited Some Cases Most or All Cases  
Small Claims   Most or All Cases  
Civil Equity Most or All Cases Some Cases  
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases    
Foreclosures and Liens Some Cases Some Cases  
Real Estate Title and Boundary Most or All Cases    
Landlord / Tenant Some Cases Most or All Cases  
Ordinance Violations   Most or All Cases  
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Most or All Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Administrative Agency Appeals Most or All Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Criminal Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
Felony Most or All Cases    
Felony Preliminary Hearings Some Cases Some Cases  
Misdemeanors Some Cases Most or All Cases  
Ordinance Violations   Most or All Cases  
Juvenile Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Traffic and Infractions   Most or All Cases  
Domestic Relations Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
Divorce Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Child Custody and Visitation Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Child Support Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Paternity Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Domestic Violence Protection Order Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Juvenile Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
Adoptions Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Juvenile Delinquency Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Child Abuse and Neglect Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Termination of Parental Rights Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Children in Need of Supervision Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Mental Health Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
Involuntary Commitments Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases
Other Mental Health Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Probate Circuit Courts District Courts Family Courts
Wills & Estates Most or All Cases    
Name Changes Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Trusts Most or All Cases    
Guardianships and Conservatorships Most or All Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases

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