A divorce in New Hampshire, for any married couple, will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
Residency and Where to File
You may file for divorce in the Superior Court of the county where either party resides, providing one of the following residency requirements is met:
- both parties are domiciled in the state (domicile refers to the primary state of residence; you may have more than one residence, but you may only have one domicile),
- the petitioner is domiciled in the state, and the respondent is served in the state,
- the petitioner is domiciled in the state for at least 1 year, or
- the cause of the divorce arose in the state while the petitioner was domiciled there.
The simplest procedure is an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse can reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. You begin by preparing a Petition for Divorce, along with various other supporting documents. These documents are filed with the court, and copies are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. New Hampshire, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce, and several traditional fault-based grounds. To get a no-fault divorce in New Hampshire you need to state in the Petition for Divorce that “there are irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”
The fault-based grounds for divorce are: impotency, adultery, extreme cruelty, conviction of a felony and imprisonment, treatment “as seriously to injure health or endanger” the other party, absence “for 2 years together and has not been heard of,” habitual drunkenness for 2 years, the other party has “joined any religious sect or society which professes to believe the relation of husband and wife unlawful and has refused to cohabitate for 6 months,” and abandonment and refusal to cohabit for 2 years without sufficient cause or consent of the other. In most cases, there is no reason to use any of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.
New Hampshire divorce law provides that all property is marital property, which will be divided equally, unless the judge orders otherwise after considering the following factors:
- the duration of the marriage,
- each party’s age, health, social or economic status, occupation, vocational skills, employability, separate property, amount and sources of income, needs and liabilities,
- each party’s opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets and income,
- the ability of the custodial party to engage in gainful employment without substantially interfering with the interests of any minor children of the parties,
- the custodial party’s need to occupy the marital residence or household effects,
- each party’s actions during the marriage which contributed to the growth or diminution in value of property owned by either or both of the parties,
- any significant disparity between the parties in relation to contributions to the marriage, including contributions to the care of the children and the home,
- any party’s contribution to help educate or develop the career or employability of the other party, and any interruption of a party’s educational or career opportunities for the benefit of the other’s career or for the benefit of the parties’ marriage or children,
- any expectation of pension or retirement rights acquired prior to or during marriage,
- the tax consequences for each party,
- the value of property that is allocated by a valid prenuptial contract,
- the fault of either party in causing the breakdown of the marriage, which caused substantial physical or mental pain and suffering, or resulted in substantial economic loss to the marital estate or the injured party,
- the value of any property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for such property, and any property acquired by gift or inheritance, and
- any other factor that the court deems relevant.
Alimony in New Hampshire
Alimony may be awarded if (taking into account the lifestyle established during the marriage) (1) the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient income or property to meet his or her reasonable needs, and (2) the party from whom alimony is sought is able to meet his or her own reasonable needs while paying alimony, and (3) the party seeking alimony is unable to be self-supporting through appropriate employment or has parental responsibilities for a child whose circumstances make it appropriate that the party not seek employment outside the home.
Absent an agreement by the parties, New Hampshire alimony law provides that the judge will determine the amount and duration of alimony after considering the following factors:
- the length of the marriage,
- each party’s age, health, social or economic status, and occupation,
- each party’s amount and sources of income, and the property awarded to each,
- each party’s vocational skills, employability, estate, and liabilities,
- each party’s needs,
- each party’s opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets and income,
- the fault of either party,
- the federal tax consequences of the order, and
- each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their estates, and the noneconomic contribution of each of the parties to the family unit.
Child Custody in New Hampshire
A custody determination basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. Absent a custody agreement, the judge will decide the issue, after considering the following factors:
- the relationship of the child with each party and the ability of each party to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance,
- the ability of each party to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment,
- the child’s developmental needs and the ability of each party to meet them,
- the child’s adjustment to school and community, and the likely effect of any change,
- each party’s support for the child’s relationship and frequent contact with the other party, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a party,
- the child’s relationship with any other person who may significantly affect the child,
- the parties’ ability to communicate, cooperate, and make joint decisions concerning the child, including whether contact is likely to harm the child or a party,
- any evidence of abuse, and the impact of the abuse on the child and the relationship between the child and the abusing party,
- if a party is incarcerated, the reason for and the length of the incarceration, and any unique issues that arise as a result of incarceration,
- if a child is of sufficient maturity, the court may give substantial weight to the child’s wishes (but considering any undesirable or improper influences upon the child), and
- any other factor the court deems relevant.
Child Support in New Hampshire
Child support is determined by reference to the New Hampshire Child Support Guidelines, which, along with a calculator, may be found at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services website.
The wife’s maiden or former name may be restored. The court may order marriage counseling at the request or either party, or on its own.
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