New Hampshire Divorce Law

Divorce – State Law Summary – New Hampshire

Notes: This summary is not intended to be an all-inclusive summary of the laws of divorce in the State of New Hampshire, but does contain basic and other procedures.

Grounds for divorce
A divorce may be granted in the State of New Hampshire upon the following grounds:

1. Impotency of either party.
2. Adultery of either party.
3. Extreme cruelty of either party to the other.
4. Conviction of either party, in any state or federal district, of a crime punishable with imprisonment for more than one year and actual imprisonment under such conviction.
5. When either party has so treated the other as seriously to injure health or endanger reason.
6. When either party has been absent 2 years together, and has not been heard of.
7. When either party is an habitual drunkard, and has been such for 2 years together.
8. When either party has joined any religious sect or society which professes to believe the relation of husband and wife unlawful, and has refused to cohabit with the other for 6 months together.
9. When either party, without sufficient cause, and without the consent of the other, has abandoned and refused, for 2 years together, to cohabit with the other.
10. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. 458:7, 7a

Residency requirements
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.

A divorce in New Hampshire may be filed in the county where either spouse resides. 458:9

Name of court and title of action/parties
An action for divorce is filed in the Superior Court. The title of the action initiating the divorce is a Petition for Divorce, while the action granting the divorce is referred to as a Decree of Divorce. The party filing the action for divorce is the Petitioner, and the other party to the divorce is called the Respondent.

Legal separation
A judgement of legal separation may be granted in the State of New Hampshire on the same grounds as for a judgement of divorce. 458:26

If the court determines that there is a reasonable likelihood that the marriage may be rehabilitated, the court may refer the parties to an appropriate counseling agency.

If both parties voluntarily state that mediation will be attempted to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement, the court shall suspend the divorce proceedings in order to permit the parties to pursue the settlement. 458:7b, 15a

The court shall order either party pay alimony to the other for a definite or indefinite time if it finds that:
1. The party in need lacks sufficient income to provide for his or her reasonable needs, taking into consideration the standard of living the parties have become accustomed to during the marriage, and;
2. The party from whom alimony is sought is able to meet the reasonable needs of the party seeking alimony while meeting his or her own needs, taking into consideration the standard of living the parties have become accustomed to during the marriage, and;
3. The party in need is unable to be self-supporting through appropriate employment at a standard of living that meets his or her reasonable needs or is the custodian of a child whose condition is such that it would be inappropriate for that person to seek outside employment.

In determining the amount of alimony, the court shall consider the following factors:
1. The length of the marriage;
2. The age, health, social or economic status, occupation, amount and sources of income;
3. The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of assets and income;
4. The fault of either party;
5. The tax consequences to each party. 458:19

Distribution of property
Upon granting a divorce, the court will divide all property of both parties, both real and personal, as it deems equitable between the parties. A presumption exists that an equal distribution is equitable. Some of the factors the court will consider in deciding how to equitably divide the property between the parties include:
1. The age, health, social or economic status, occupation, vocational skills, employability, separate property, amount and sources of income, and needs and liabilities of the parties;
2. The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
3. The ability of the custodial parent to engage in gainful employment without substantially interfering with the interests of any minor children;
4. The need of the custodial parent to occupy or own the marital home and to use or own its furnishings;
5. The actions of either party during the marriage which contributed to the growth or dimutation in value of property owned by either or both parties;
6. Significant disparity between the parties in relation to contributions to the marriage;
7. Any direct or indirect contribution of one party to help educate or develop the career of the other and any interruption of either party’s educational or career opportunities;
8. The expectation of either party to pension or retirement rights;
9. The tax consequences for each party;
10. The fault of either party to the marital breakdown;
11. Any other relevant factor.

Child Custody
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. 458-A

Child support
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, including, but not limited to, the following, shall be considered and may result in adjustments in the application of support guidelines. The court shall make written findings relative to the applicability of the following:

(a) Ongoing extraordinary medical, dental or education expenses, including expenses related to the special needs of a child, incurred on behalf of the involved children;
(b) Significantly high or low income of the obligee or obligor;
(c) The economic consequences of the presence of stepparents, step-children or natural or adopted children;
(d) Reasonable expenses incurred by the obligor parent in exercising visitation or physical custodial rights, or expenses incurred by such parent in extended visitation or physical custodial rights, provided that the reasonable expenses incurred by the obligee parent for the minor children can be met regardless of such adjustment;
(e) The economic consequences to either party of the disposition of a marital home made for the benefit of the child;
(f) The opportunity to optimize both parties’ after-tax income by taking into account federal tax consequences of an order of support;
(g) State tax obligations;
(h) Split or shared custody arrangements;
(i) The economic consequences to either party of providing for the voluntary or court-ordered post secondary educational expenses of a natural or adopted child;
(j) Other special circumstances found by the court to avoid an unreasonably low or confiscatory support order, taking all relevant circumstances into consideration. 458-C:4, 5

Inside New Hampshire Divorce Law