Divorce in New Hampshire is known as Absolute Divorce or Divorce from the Bonds of Matrimony.
To file for divorce in New Hampshire both parties must be domiciled in New Hampshire; the Plaintiff (filing spouse) is domiciled in the state; or the Plaintiff was domiciled in the state for a continuous one year period immediately before commencing the divorce action.
Proof that a person obtaining a Divorce from the Bonds of Matrimony in another jurisdiction was domiciled in this state within 12 months prior to the commencement of the proceeding, and resumed residence in this state within 18 months after the date of his/her departure, or at all times after his/her departure from New Hampshire and until his/her return maintained a place of residence within the state, shall be acceptable evidence that the person was domiciled in the state when the divorce proceeding was commenced.
A divorce obtained in another jurisdiction shall be of no force or effect in New Hampshire, if both parties to the marriage were domiciled in the jurisdiction of New Hampshire at the time the proceeding for the divorce was commenced.
A Petition for Divorce from the Bonds of Matrimony must be filed in the Superior Court of the county where either party lives, and notice of the Petition must be given to the Respondent (non-filing spouse). If the parties file a Joint Petition, notice or further service is not required.
Service of Notice:
Service within New Hampshire shall be made by either of the following methods:
In lieu of service as described above for in-state, the court may, after issuing orders of notice, send notice to the respondent indicating that the petition has been filed and that the respondent or the respondent's attorney may accept service at the court within 10 days. If neither the respondent nor his/her attorney accepts service at the court within 10 days as specified in the correspondence, the Petition shall be forwarded to the petitioner for service in accordance with the methods described above.
Service outside the state shall be made by either of these methods:
When the residence of the respondent is not known, the petition shall state the respondent's last known post office address, and the name and post office address of some near relative of the respondent, if any is known to the petitioner, and otherwise the name and post office address of some friend of the respondent, such facts to be verified by the petitioner's personal affidavit filed with the petition.
The petitioner shall file the petition with the court together with the name and address of a newspaper published in the city or town nearest to the respondent's last known address. Service shall then be ordered by publication in the newspaper, with publication to be completed not less than 15 days before the return date, and by certified mail addressed to the respondent, care of the relative or friend of the respondent, or otherwise as the court may order. Publication may be waived for good cause upon motion to the court.
Whenever, before or during a hearing but before a final decree, the court determines that there is a likelihood for rehabilitation of the marriage relationship, it shall refer the parties to an appropriate counseling agency within its jurisdiction. If the court determines that there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation, it shall continue the proceedings and require that both parties submit to marriage counseling.
In the Case of Minor Children:
In the event of any divorce or separation action where there are minor children involved, the court shall, no later than the respondent's filing of an appearance, require the parties to attend a 4-hour information session. This session shall be a seminar on how to help the children deal with the issues surrounding divorce, separation, and the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.
In any divorce or nullity of marriage proceeding, the court may restore a former name of the spouse, regardless of whether this request had been included in the original Petition.
The clerk of the superior court for each county, at the end of each term of court, shall return a full and correct list of all changes of names that have been decreed by the court since the last return, to the registrar of vital records.
As of January 1, 2010, no new civil unions were allowed in New Hampshire.
Up until January 1, 2011, parties to New Hampshire civil unions were permitted to apply to the clerk of the town or city in which their civil union was recorded to have their civil union legally designated and recorded as a marriage, without any additional requirements of payment of marriage licensing fees or solemnization as required by statute (RSA 457), unless the civil union had been previously dissolved or annulled. These parties also had the option of applying and receiving a marriage license and having the marriage solemnized, provided that the parties were otherwise eligible to legally marry and that the parties to the marriage were the same as the parties to the civil union. The civil unions were then dissolved by operation of law by the marriage, as of the date of the marriage stated in the newly obtained marriage certificates.
Parties to civil unions already established prior to January 1, 2010, who did not convert/transform their union into a marriage prior to January 1, 2011, shall be deemed to be married as of January 1, 2011 and these civil unions were merged into such marriage by operation of law on January 1, 2011.
A civil union legally contracted outside of New Hampshire shall be recognized as a marriage in this state, provided that the relationship does not violate the statutes.
Parties to a marriage may obtain a divorce for any of the following causes.
In any pleading or hearing of a petition for divorce for the cause of "Irreconcilable Differences", allegations or evidence of specific acts of misconduct shall be improper and inadmissible, except where parental rights and responsibilities are an issue and such evidence is relevant to establish that a particular allocation of parental rights and responsibilities would be detrimental to the child or at a hearing where it is determined by the court to be necessary to establish the existence of irreconcilable differences.
If both parties are found to have committed an act or acts which justify a finding of irreconcilable differences, a divorce shall be decreed and the acts of one party shall not negate the acts of the other nor bar the divorce decree. The court's findings and decree may be based on oral testimony or written stipulations of the parties.
Jurisdiction of the cause for divorce exists when it wholly arose or accrued while the plaintiff was domiciled in the state, and not otherwise.
In any proceedings for annulment for any cause whether under statute or under common law, the court shall have jurisdiction to declare an annulment of a marriage entered into in New Hampshire even though neither party has been at any time a resident of the state.
These marriages shall be absolutely void without any legal process.
Marriages legally contracted outside the state of New Hampshire, which would be prohibited as identified above if contracted in New Hampshire, shall not be legally recognized in this state.
Null and Void Marriages:
Age of Consent:
The accepted age of consent for both males and females is 18. Any marriage contracted by a person below 18, except under specific circumstances, may in the discretion of the superior court be annulled at the suit of the party who was under-age at the time of contracting the marriage, or at the suit of his/her parent or guardian, unless the previously under-age party had subsequently confirmed the marriage after attaining the age of consent.
If the parent or guardian of a minor files a Petition for Annulment, the Superior Court is authorized to make such orders as in the discretion of the court that will protect the interest of the minor child, including but not limited to orders directing the minor child to return to its parents or guardian.
The party against whom the orders are issued may file a written request with the clerk of the superior court and request a hearing. This hearing shall be held no later than five days after the request is received by the clerk. The request shall be filed with the clerk of court for the county in which the Petition of Annulment is filed.
Contracting prohibited marriages in other jurisdictions:
If any person residing and intending to continue to reside in New Hampshire is prohibited from contracting marriage under the laws of the state and goes into another jurisdiction and contracts a marriage there, that is prohibited and declared void by the laws of New Hampshire, such marriage shall be null and void for all purposes in this state, with the same effect as though such prohibited marriage had been entered into in this state.
No marriage shall be contracted in New Hampshire by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another jurisdiction if the marriage would be void if contracted in that jurisdiction, and every marriage contracted in this state under this type of violation shall be null and void.
If any doubt exists whether any marriage is void, or as to the effect of any former decree of divorce or nullity between the parties, a petition may be filed as in other cases and a decree of divorce or nullity may be made.
Property shall include all tangible and intangible property and assets, real or personal, belonging to either or both parties, whether title to the property is held in the name of either or both parties.
Intangible property includes, but is not limited to, employment benefits, vested and non-vested pension or other retirement benefits, or savings plans. To the extent permitted by federal law, property shall include military retirement and veterans' disability benefits.
When a divorce is decreed, the court may order an equitable division of property between the parties. The court shall presume that an equal division is an equitable distribution of property, unless the court establishes a trust fund under applicable statute (RSA 458:20) or unless the court decides that an equal division would not be appropriate or equitable after considering one or more of the following factors:
If either or both parties retain an ownership interest in an education savings account held on behalf of a child of the marriage, including a qualified tuition program under 26 U.S.C. Section 529, the court may, in its discretion, preserve the account for its original purpose or may treat the account as property of the marriage subject to equitable division.
Upon motion of either party for alimony payments, the court shall make orders for the payment of alimony to the party in need, either temporary or permanent, for a definite or indefinite period of time, when these orders would be just and equitable.
The motion for alimony must be made within five years of the decree of nullity or divorce and the following criteria must be met:
The court may order alimony to be paid for such length of time as the parties may agree or the court orders. The court may order the alimony to be paid in a lump sum, periodic payments, or both.
In determining the amount of alimony, the court shall consider the following factors:
In determining amount and sources of income, the court does not consider a minor child's social security benefit payments or a second or subsequent spouse's income. The court may consider veterans' disability benefits collected by either or both parties to the extent permitted by federal law. The court may also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the noneconomic contribution of each of the parties to the family unit.
Any provision of law that refers to the "custody'' of minor children shall mean the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities as provided by statute. Any provision of law which refers to a "custodial parent'' shall mean a parent with 50% or more of the residential responsibility and any reference to a non-custodial parent shall mean a parent with less than 50% of the residential responsibility.
Because children do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in their lives, it is the policy of the state of New Hampshire, unless it is clearly shown that in a particular case it is detrimental to a child, to sustain the following:
In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider the following factors:
If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a minor child is of sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment, it may give substantial weight to the preference of that mature minor child as to the determination of parental rights and responsibilities. Under these circumstances, the court shall also give due consideration to other factors which may have affected the minor child's preference, including whether the minor child's preference was based on undesirable or improper influences.
In determining parental rights and responsibilities, including residential responsibility, the court shall not apply a preference for one parent over the other because of the sex of the child, the sex of a parent, or the financial resources of a parent.
Except in instances of abuse, when ordering decision-making responsibility, there shall be a presumption that joint decision-making responsibility is in the best interest of the minor children.
If the court finds that a parent has been convicted of sexual assault or there has been a finding by a court of competent jurisdiction of sexual abuse against such parent's minor child or minor stepchild, the court may prohibit contact between such parent and the victim of the abuse and any sibling or step-sibling of the victim. The court shall make orders that best protect the victim of the abuse and the siblings and step-siblings of such victim.
If a parent makes a good faith allegation based on a reasonable belief supported by facts that his/her child is a victim of physical abuse, neglect and/or sexual abuse perpetrated by the other parent and if the parent making the allegation acts lawfully and in good faith in accordance with such belief to protect the child or seek treatment for the child, the parent making the allegation shall not be deprived of parenting time, or contact with the child based on reasonable actions taken in accordance with that belief.
In proceeding to establish or modify a judgment providing for parenting time with a child, the parents shall develop and file with the court a parenting plan to be included in the court's decree. If the parents are unable to develop a parenting plan, the court may develop it. In developing a parenting plan, the court shall consider only the best interests of the child and the safety of the parties.
A parenting plan may include provisions relative to the following:
After the filing of a Petition for divorce, annulment, or separation where there are minor children involved, the court shall make such further decree in relation to the support and education of the children as shall be most conducive to their benefit, and may order a reasonable provision for their support and education.
The amount of a child support obligation shall remain as stated in the order until the dependent child for whom support is ordered completes his/her high school education or reaches the age of 18 years, whichever is later, or marries, or becomes a member of the armed services, at which time the child support obligation, including all educational support obligations, terminates without further legal action. If the order involves a disabled child, the court shall specify the duration of the order, which may be beyond the time when the child reaches the age of 18.
If the order establishes a support obligation for more than one child, and if the court can determine that within the next three years support will terminate for one of the children as provided above, the amount of the new child support obligation for the remaining children may be stated in the order and shall take effect on the date or event specified without further legal action.
No child support order shall require a parent to contribute to an adult child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school.
Each child support order shall include the court's determination and findings relative to health insurance and the payment of uninsured medical expenses for the child. The court shall determine whether private health insurance is accessible and available to either parent at a cost that is at or below the reasonable medical support obligation amount, as established and ordered by statute (RSA 458-C:3, V), or is available by combining the reasonable medical support obligations of both parents, and, if so available, the court shall order the parent, or parents, to provide such insurance for the child. The cost of providing private health insurance is the cost of adding the child to existing coverage, or the difference between individual and family coverage. Accessible health insurance means the primary care services are located within 50 miles or one hour from the child's primary residence.
If the court determines that private health insurance is not accessible or available at a cost that is at or below the reasonable medical support obligation amount, it shall establish a cash medical support obligation for either or both parents, equal to the reasonable medical support obligation amount, and order that either or both parents shall obtain such private health insurance if it subsequently becomes accessible and available at a cost that is at or below the reasonable medical support obligation amount. When ordered in lieu of private health insurance, an obligation for cash medical support shall be suspended and shall not accrue during such time as the obligated parent is providing private health insurance in accordance with the law.
A court may order either or both parents to pay a medical support obligation, either to provide health insurance coverage or as cash medical support, in excess of the reasonable medical support obligation amount, in such other circumstances, as the court deems appropriate.
New Hampshire child support laws operate under the following guidelines:
Adjusted gross income (AGI) is the amount attained after subtracting the following from gross income:
New Hampshire uses the Flat Percentage Method for determining child support obligations. The obligation amount is determined by multiplying the parents' total net income by the applicable percentage based on the following chart:
Number of Children Percentage of Net
4 or more 45%
The total child support obligation shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their respective adjusted incomes, except when the parent receiving the child support incurs child care expenses or she/he pays actual expense for the medical support obligation for the minor children for whom child support is being ordered. In these cases the child care and/or medical expenses are deducted from the receiving parent's AGI.
If the paying parent's gross income is less than the self-support reserve and the court has determined that he/she is not voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court shall order the child support obligation in the amount of a minimum support order.
If the paying parent's gross income is greater than the self-support reserve but payment of the order as calculated under statute would reduce his/her income below the self-support reserve, the paying parent's share of the total support obligation shall be presumed to be the difference between the self-support reserve and that parent's AGI, but in any event shall be no less than the amount of a minimum support order.
The court shall establish and order a reasonable medical support obligation for each parent. The presumptive amount of this obligation shall be 4% of the individual parent's gross income, unless the court establishes and orders a different amount based on a written finding or a specific finding, made by the presiding officer on the record, that the presumptive amount would be unjust or inappropriate, using the statutory criteria set forth below.
When raised by any party to the action or by the court, special circumstances shall be considered in light of the best interests of the child and may result in adjustments in the application of the support guidelines. The court shall make written findings relative to the applicability of the following:
Not less than once every 4 years, the Department of Health and Human Services shall review the guidelines provided by statute in order to determine whether their application results in the determination of appropriate child support award amounts.
In any case in which a divorce might be decreed, the superior court, on petition of either party, may decree a legal separation of the parties (also referred to as a limited divorce), which shall have in all respects the effect of a divorce, except that the legal separation does not terminate the marriage and shall not make the parties free to marry any third person.
After obtaining a Decree of Legal Separation, either party may file a motion to amend the decree to one of divorce. The court may then consider whether justice requires that such a change be made, and, upon such consideration, the court may, in its discretion, grant such a motion.
The procedure for filing a Petition for Legal Separation shall be the same as that for Petitions for Divorce, and the court shall have the same power in all matters relating to restraining orders and decrees, allowances, alimony, parental rights and responsibilities for children and division or apportionment of the property of the parties, as in cases of divorce. The name of the wife shall not be changed.
After the filing of a petition for separation, the superior court may issue orders with such conditions and limitations as the court deems just which may, at the discretion of the court, be made on a temporary or permanent basis.
These orders may include the determination of the temporary custody and maintenance of any minor children as shall be deemed expedient for the benefit of the children and temporary allowance to be paid for the support of the other spouse.
If either spouse is living apart from the other without justifiable cause or willingly absents himself/herself from the other, the Superior Court, upon Petition by the spouse, or if insane, by his/her guardian or next friend, may issue orders which may at the discretion of the court be ex parte and which may grant the same relief as provided for in actions for divorce, annulment, legal separation or decree of nullity. The residency requirements of shall not apply in this instance; and the court may grant this relief to a nonresident plaintiff if the defendant is a resident of this state.
Resumption of Marital Relations:
If the parties to a legal separation wish to resume marital relations, they may file the change in writing, signed, acknowledged and witnessed, with the clerk of the Superior Court for the county where the separation was decreed. This resumption of marital relations shall terminate and annul all restraining orders, and all decrees relating to alimony or parental rights and responsibilities, but shall not affect any decree relating to the division or apportionment of property.
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