It was supposed to be a summer vacation for a mother and her son.
If they had traveled together as planned, they would have been out of the country and set to return this Saturday.
Instead, Katherine Aikau is making her way home after the tragic murder-suicide involving her son and estranged husband.
The bodies of Gerald Aikau, 42, and his 7-year-old son, Reef, were found on the same Pauoa property where surf legend Eddie Aikau grew up.
We learned through court records that Katherine Aikau had planned a trip with Reef Aikau, but the boy’s father refused to sign off on a passport.
Court documents give a glimpse into the Aikau’s troubled relationship.
“I have immediate safety concerns for my son,” Katherine Aikau wrote. “I have an out of country trip planned for my son and I during his summer vacation … (but the) plaintiff has refused to assist in processing passport paperwork.”
Ultimately, Reef Aikau could not make the overseas trip.
Why must both parents sign for a child’s passport? We turned to attorneys at the law firm Coates and Frey for answers.
“There’s always the possibility of flight,” said attorney Bradley Coates. “There are some countries where you get out and don’t return. It’s very difficult and very expensive to get them back.”
The two-parent consent law decreases the likelihood of a U.S. passport being used to kidnap a child, technically called international parental child abduction.
“She probably wanted the passport for pleasure or other purposes, and the court had yet to enter the order to allow her to do that,” said attorney P. Gregory Frey. “Whether she could have, we’re never going to know unfortunately, because she never got to go to court to make that formally.”
Unless there is a custody order, both parents have equal rights to a minor child.
“The problem in this case was if she had had an order granting her temporary sole custody, she might have been able to have more control of the situation,” Coates said. “(But) they kept postponing the order. Nobody had actually gotten custody in this case.
“Domestic violence is obviously at the root of this. That’s the root of the problem,” Coates added. “That’s very prevalent in Hawaii, unfortunately.”
We reached out to Katherine Aikau, but have not yet heard back.