Determining Child Custody in New Hampshire (also referred to as a parenting plan)

Divorce can be a difficult situation, particularly for families with children. One of the hardest parts of the divorce is deciding custody, support, and visitation for the children. Every divorce is different so it is imperative that you seek immediate help from an experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney. Your lawyer will review every aspect of your case, answer your questions, and guide you through the divorce process. One area in particular is especially important to work out – the children. In New Hampshire the parents are required to develop a parenting plan that will be utilized as part of the divorce order. Parents need to understand that they need to work out a plan that is in the best interest of the children.

Types of Custody

There are two types of child custody in New Hampshire. These include legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody governs the important decisions about the children such as where they will go to school, what church they will attend, and health treatment (to name just a few). Physical custody refers to the location where the child will live. Within each type of custody there are variations that can include one or both parents. Joint legal custody is typically the most common type of custody awarded. It requires that both parents make major decisions about the children together or that either one is able to make these decisions. In cases where one parent is deemed unfit or unable to make these decisions, the other parent will be the primary legal custodian. Children may reside with one parent as a primary physical custodian and visit the other at designated times. Joint physical custody is where the child spends equal time living in each parent’s home.


The non-custodial parent will typically be allowed visitation with the child. These visitation times are outlined in a parenting schedule or parenting plan that is part of the divorce order. Parents must agree to specific visitation schedules. For example, a child may visit with the non-custodial parent every other weekend. The plan also outlines how the child will be picked up and dropped off. Other important considerations include where the child will spend holidays, vacations, and birthdays. Once a parenting plan is in place and the visitation is ordered it can’t be changed except through the court.


In order to make changes to a parenting plan, visitation schedule, or support payment order the parent must file for a court hearing. The parent must have reason to do so and it must be done in accordance with the method set up in their specific parenting plan. Both parents will need to attend this hearing where they can discuss the issues that want to be modified. It is important to have your New Hampshire family law attorney with you at this hearing to ensure that you understand and agree to the determination. Your lawyer will assist you throughout the process and will answer any questions you may have regarding the modification.