New Hampshire Child Custody And Visitation
Parental Rights in New Hampshire
A parent’s right to be involved in the life of their child is fundamental under the New Hampshire Constitution, and the courts generally seek to maintain children’s contact with both parents.
There are two kinds of responsibility for children in New Hampshire: major decision making, formerly known as legal custody, and residential responsibility, formerly known as physical custody. Most parents share joint decision making for their child and remain involved in the child’s life and participate in major decisions affecting the child.
A parent with primary residential responsibility for a child provides the primary residence of the child and however the parents still share responsibility for most day-to-day matters, depending on whose care the child is in at the moment.
A non-custodial parent is generally entitled to parenting times on a schedule, which can vary, with the children. A non-custodial parent is also obligated to share financially in the support of the children. Support payments are calculated based on the incomes of the parents and the number of children.
Revised Parenting Law
New Hampshire comprehensively revised its parenting law in 2005, when it enacted the current Parental Rights and Responsibility Act, RSA 461-A. The Act requires the family court to institute a “Parenting Plan,” and in making parenting determinations, to focus its attention squarely on the welfare of the children. The Act does not consider the marital or non-marital status of the parents. The children are the central focus of the Act’s “Statement of Purpose”:
- Because children do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in their lives, it is the policy of this state, unless it is clearly shown that in a particular case it is detrimental to a child, to:
(a) Support frequent and continuing contact between each child and both parents.
(b) Encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after the parents have separated or divorced.
(c) Encourage parents to develop their own parenting plan with the assistance of legal and mediation professionals, unless there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect.
(d) Grant parents and courts the widest discretion in developing a parenting plan.
(e) Consider both the best interests of the child in light of the factors listed in RSA 461-A:6 and the safety of the parties in developing a parenting plan.
New Hampshire law also requires that anyone with children who is getting divorced or who has filed or responded to a parenting petition must attend a 4 hour seminar on the effects of divorce or separation on children.
Paternity – Obligations of Fathers
In New Hampshire Paternity may be established upon the filing of either a petition to the superior court by the mother, putative father, child. . . and the granting of such petition by the court; or by filing an affidavit of paternity with the clerk of the town where the birth of the child occurred. If paternity has been established the liabilities of the father may be enforced to furnish the reasonable expenses of pregnancy, confinement, education or necessary support.
A family court in New Hampshire will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. Factors included in a best interest of the child determination are:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide the child with a loving environment
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child
- The child’s adjustment to school and community and the potential effect of a change
- Each parent’s willingness to support the child’s ability to be in contact with the other parent
- Each parent’s ability to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make decisions for the child
- The child’s developmental needs, as well as each parent’s ability to provide for those needs
- Any history of abuse.
Parenting Plans and Child Custody in New Hampshire
In a New Hampshire child custody case, parents must develop and file a parenting plan
with the court. A parenting plan must include information related to:
- The child’s legal residence for school attendance purposes
- Decision-making responsibilities and residential responsibilities
- A parenting schedule including weekends, holidays, vacations, and birthday planning
- Relocation guidelines
- Methods for resolving disputes
In New Hampshire if both parents agree to file the parenting action, even if you don’t agree on a parenting plan or child support, you can file a joint parenting petition to begin the parenting action avoids the cost of formal service of legal papers.
An individual parent can also file a parenting petition and the opposing parent will need to be notified about this parenting action either by sending the papers by certified mail or through the sheriff. After a petition is filed or served, the case will be scheduled for a First Appearance session with a judge or master who will explain the court process. At this session, a judge or master will explain the court process.
Modification of Child Custody in New Hampshire
A New Hampshire court will modify child custody if:
- The parties agree to a modification:
- The court finds that the child’s living environment poses a danger to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the child will benefit from a change in circumstances:
- The court finds that one parent repeatedly interferes with the residential duties and responsibilities of the other parent; or
- One parent believes the current custody arrangement is not working.
New Hampshire has jurisdiction to modify a parenting action or modification custody when:
- New Hampshire is the home state of the child at the time of commencement of the custody proceeding; or (2) has been the child’s home state within 6 months before commencement of such proceeding and the child is absent from this state because of his removal or retention by a person claiming his custody or for other reasons, and a parent or person acting as parent continues to live in this state; or
- It is in the best interest of the child that a court of this state assume jurisdiction because (1) the child and his parents, or the child and at least one contestant, have a significant connection with this state, and (2) there is within the jurisdiction of the court substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or
- The child is physically present in this state and (1) the child has been abandoned or (2) it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child; or
- It appears that no other state would have jurisdiction . . .or another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child, and (2) it is in the best interest of the child that this court assume jurisdiction.
Registration and Enforcement of Out of State Court Orders
In New Hampshire an out of state custody order may be filed by completing a Request to Register Foreign Order and attaching a certified copy of the original order.
Any custody order, foreign or otherwise, may be enforced in New Hampshire by filing a Petition for Contempt with the local court venue, along with a personal data sheet.
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in New Hampshire and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal, on 7-15-13.
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