Divorce – State FAQ – New Hampshire
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in New Hampshire prior to filing for divorce in a New Hampshire court?
A: To file a divorce in the State of New Hampshire, the courts require that:
1. Both parties must reside in the State at the time the action is filed, or;
2. The plaintiff reside in the State and the defendant was personally served within the State; or,
3. The plaintiff resided in the State for one year immediately prior to the filing of the action.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Petitioner, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Respondent.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In New Hampshire, proper venue for the divorce action is the Superior Court. A divorce in New Hampshire may be filed in the county where either spouse resides.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Petition for Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in New Hampshire. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in New Hampshire?
A: A divorce may be granted in the State of New Hampshire upon any of the grounds listed on the New Hampshire Divorce Main Page
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: The court’s consideration of whether alimony should be awarded and, if so, how much alimony to award is discussed in the Divorce Information section of the New Hampshire Divorce Main Page
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: New Hampshire is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. While the trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse, the court will consider the factors enumerated on the New Hampshire Divorce Main Page.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: Can grandparents be awarded visitation?
A: Yes. Grandparents can be granted visitation rights if it is within the best interest of the child to do so, as well as a number of other factors the court will consider.
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: All custody determinations are guided by the best interests of the child. A presumption exists in determining custodial arrangements that joint custody is in the child’s best interests, unless there are allegations of child abuse. No preference shall be given to a party in a custody determination on the basis of a party’s sex. The court will give consideration to the wishes of the child.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of the award which would result from the application of guidelines enacted by the State of New Hampshire is the correct amount of child support. A written finding or a specific finding on the record that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption in such case. Special circumstances may result in adjustments in the application of support guidelines. These circumstances are listed in the Divorce Information section on the New Hampshire Divorce Main Page.