Family Issues

Home > Family Issues

The Family Law Tribunal of DPR (FLT)

Matrimonial, Estate, and Other Family Matters in Downtown Honolulu
Dignified, Rational Processes for Resolving Family Matters Fairly, Swiftly, Economically, and Successfully. -and- Enduring Solutions Which Are Legally Appropriate, Economically Feasible, and Personally Acceptable.
The Challenge

Our legal system is an adversarial system. It is the worst possible way to resolve disputes between family members, because the system itself assumes that people are adversaries and processes them as such -- whether people really areadversaries, whether they wish to be adversaries, or whether it even makes sensefor them to be adversaries. The assumed adversarial nature of their relationship can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In short, the very system that parties turn to for resolution of disputes forces them to act as adversaries, which makes their disputes worse.

Compounding that problem is the fact that here, as in many other states, our Family Court is under-funded and under-staffed, operating out of inconvenient, uncomfortable, over-crowded facilities. Despite the best efforts of our dedicated Family Court judges, this results in loss of privacy, delays in scheduling, wasted time (and expense) driving to court, waiting for hearings, pressure to shorten hearings, and other frustrations that are inevitably endemic to the system.

The Solution: Use the services of FLT before, during, or even after litigation.

FLT provides a full range of services to help families make decisions about family matters – like divorce, custody and visitation, property division, estate planning, surrogate decision-making, etc. When people can resolve issues in ways they select themselves, there is less destructive conflict impacting them, their finances, their relatives, their friends, their business associates, and their children. We take pride in providing a variety of services and people to help you do that.

FLT is able to schedule hearings swiftly and at times that work best for parties. Hearings are held when scheduled without wasting attorney and client time waiting around. Our comfortable, convenient, user-friendly facilities include large hearing rooms, waiting rooms, and a coffee/tea lounge area. Our case manager staff is accessible, friendly, and helpful. FLT provides a dignified, respectful environment conducive to achieving satisfactory solutions with the help of our Family Law mediation and arbitration professionals.

FLT offers a variety of services including:
  1. Traditional Mediation with a Family Law expert -- working on an hourly basis -- to help parties reach agreements satisfactory to both/all. See "Divorce Mediation Basics" under "Links" below.
  2. Arbitration (choice of binding or advisory) for all family matters (including full divorce or limited pre-decree or post-decree issues).
  3. Divorce Settlement Master Service
  4. Discovery Master Service. Note: All FLT neutrals and other DPR neutrals are available for Discovery Master services in FLT matters.
  5. Dispute resolution processes tailored for specific family needs.


  1. "Divorce Mediation Basics" article from The Practical Lawyer (Read this to see how mediation can work for you).
  2. Advantages of Mediation
  3. How to make mediation work for you
  4. Pre-Marital Agreements
  5. Our Family Law Mediators (resumes):
  6. Divorce Arbitration
  7. Advantages of Arbitration
  8. Our Family Law Arbitrators (resumes):
  9. Hawaii Divorce Manual (2005) Section 16 "Alternatives to Litigation"(This is the divorce practitioners "guidebook," and section 16 includes detailed explanations of Mediation and Arbitration alternatives.)
  10. Hawaii Divorce Law an overview of divorce law and practices.
  11. All About Alimony
  12. Blank forms (you can print out, fill out, and submit) for the following: Information Sheet Asset & Debt Statement Income and Expense Statement
  13. DPR's Family Law Deposit Policy
  14. FLT Rules for the conduct of: Mediation Arbitration
Have questions or need further information? E-mail Kelly Bryant Tel: 523-1234  



  • Governed by informal, user-friendly rules and procedures which diminish expense and confrontation.
  • Certainty and choice: select your decision-maker from FLT’s knowledgeable, experienced, competent Family Law arbitrators, many of whom are retired judges.
  • Better control of scheduling -- date, time -- uninterrupted hearings of adequate length.
  • Representation by counsel of your choice, and other professionals may participate and assist as needed.
  • Rules of arbitration allow for greater privacy and confidentiality.
  • Comfortable, convenient private downtown hearing rooms.
  • Pre-hearing conferences with attorneys can enhance/assist/restore/clear communication - can create a climate and process for easier resolution of parenting and financial issues.
  • Faster, more certain process reduces the time in which spouses and children are victims of uncertainty, stress, and tension.
  • Arbitration can avoid the possibility of months or years of litigation and appeals.
  • Opportunities to expedite discovery and hold down other costs.
  • Characteristics of a good arbitrator: Perceptive, patient, articulate, experienced, knowledgeable of subject matter, selfconfident, trustworthy, wise, and impartial.
Mediation by FLT professional mediators can occur before, during, or after arbitration.

INCENTIVES TO ARBITRATE: Cost and time savings Less confrontational relationships Early case evaluation and assessment Better control over process and scheduling Resolving disputes in an informal, business-like manner Benefit of knowledge, expertise and experience of the arbitrator

  • Awards concerning property division and spousal support are virtually always final and binding.
  • Awards concerning minor children (custody, time-sharing, child support) may be reviewed by Family Court to assure they are in the child(ren)’s best interests.
See Excerpts from “Why Arbitrate Family Law Matters?” for more detail. HOW TO INITIATE ARBITRATION:
  • You may simply send the other side a letter like the Sample Invitation– or – call FLT/DPR (523-1234), and we will “invite” the other side.
  • Once both sides agree, an Agreement to Arbitrate is signed. See theSample Agreement to Arbitrate which can easily be tailored for your specific situation.
  • Then an arbitrator is selected. See the FLT/DPR Panel of Arbitrators. (Or you can both agree on a different arbitrator and still ask FLT/DPR to administer the arbitration and conduct it here).
  • The usual first step in the arbitration process is a pre-arbitration conference. See the Sample Agenda.
ARBITRATION IS GOVERNED BY HRS 658A AND BY THE FLT/DPR ARBITRATION RULES. THE FINAL PRODUCT OF ARBITRATION IS AN AWARD [see redacted examples of actual Awards (sample 1sample 2)] which Family Court can confirm and turn into a Divorce Decree.

Divorce Settlement Master Services

Since 2004, Family Court in Honolulu has had a Volunteer Settlement Master program, in which cases ready for trial are assigned to a VSM who acts as an extension of the Court in trying to arrange a voluntary settlement of all or at least part of the issues.

The process is similar to mediation except (1) the VSMs are not trained mediators (they are practicing Family Law attorneys who volunteer 3 or more hours of their time to work on a case), (2) it is free to the participants, (3) it tends to work more like a Court-run settlement conference (focusing on legal positions and probable outcomes) than traditional mediation (which focuses more on parties’ needs and hopes for their future), and (4) it occurs somewhat late in the litigation process rather than earlier, as mediation often does.

Jim Hoenig, Founder of the Family Law Tribunal of DPR, was one of the founders of the VSM program. Since its inception, he has trained VSMs for the program and has been a member of the VSM Oversight Committee. Having seen the success that some VSMs have had in helping parties resolve their disputes, Jim has now organized a Professional Divorce Settlement Master program for FLT.

We have asked some of the attorneys who have been most successful as VSMs to make their settlement services available on an hourly-fee basis through FLT. As of right now, the following practitioners have responded to our request and are available to serve as your settlement master. Simply call FLT to set up the process.

Present Panel of Divorce Settlement Masters:

This program is a work-in-progress. If you are a Family Law attorney who has been successful as a VSM and who truly enjoys helping people reach their own resolutions and might like to be a Panel member – or if you would like to “nominate” someone for the Panel -- please contact Jim Hoenig at FLT.

And come back to this page soon for continuing developments relating to this new way of helping parties in conflict to reach agreeable resolutions swiftly and economically.