The decision to divorce is never an easy one. Unfortunately, many marriages end in divorce. If you’ve made the decision to get a divorce the first thing you may want to do is choose an experienced New Hampshire family law attorney to represent you. The sooner you engage an attorney the better because your lawyer will be able to guide you through the process and answer your questions, relieving a lot of your stress. Every divorce is different and has its own set of circumstances. Couples who have been married a long time and have accumulated a great deal of property will have different needs than a couple who have only been married a short time. Finances and children are the two areas that divorcing couples have the most disagreement about. The first step is to determine the grounds for divorce.
In New Hampshire, married couples can file for a no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce allows couples to file a divorce without having to explain specific reasons. For example, in a standard divorce, the person filing for divorce usually has to provide grounds. A no-fault divorce makes the process much faster and easier because neither party needs to explain such grounds. In a no-fault divorce the couple agrees that they have irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences simply stated means that the couple agrees that they are no longer able to get along and that it is through the fault of neither party. In some instances one party may be able to achieve a no-fault divorce even if the other party objects.
While no-fault divorce is certainly the most common divorce used in New Hampshire, there are still some fault-based grounds that can be used for a divorce. These include such items as adultery, alcohol abuse, extreme cruelty, emotional abuse, and abandonment. Each of these reasons must be confirmed with necessary data per New Hampshire laws. For example, abandonment doesn’t simply mean that the other party has moved out of the family home. In order to qualify for abandonment the spouse must have been continually absent from the state and out of contact for a period of two years. There are many such rules that apply to the grounds for divorce so it is important to discuss your specific situation with an experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney before determining how to proceed.
Divorce settlement includes the resolution of many issues including such things as distribution of assets and property, division of debts, child custody, child support and visitation, and alimony. Courts encourage couples to come to an agreement on the major terms of the settlement. To this end, you and your spouse will need to decide how to set up and manage your divorce. In New Hampshire, a parenting plan needs to be put in place for couples with children. A parenting plan outlines physical custody, legal custody, and support. It also includes a plan should one parent want to relocate as well as a plan for resolving future disputes should they occur. The settlement terms can become an area that is difficult to agree on. An experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney will be able to guide you through the process so that it’s as easy and stress-free as possible for you and your family.
Division of Property
As part of a divorce, property must be divided. In New Hampshire, marital property (property acquired during the marriage) is to be divided equitably between both parties. Couples need to determine how to split up their assets including money, homes, vehicles, and possessions. Other considerations include pension plans and retirement accounts. Your attorney can assist you in properly dividing up your assets depending on your specific situation. When couples are unable to agree to the division of property they may be requested to seek mediation. Mediation is a way for couples to come to an agreement on most of the divorce settlement terms with less controversy.
Child Custody and Support
Children are a major concern for parents going through a divorce. The courts are clear that all decisions regarding children in a divorce must be made in their best interest. Physical custody and legal custody are the two main kinds of child custody in New Hampshire. Physical custody is the location where the children will reside. Legal custody refers to decision-making regarding the children. Many parents seek joint legal custody where both parents can make important decisions about the children such as those about education, religion, and health. Children may live in one parent’s home or may alternate between the two. When children live primarily at one home, this parent is the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent generally pays for child support and has visitation on a regular basis.
Alimony is also sometimes called spousal support. Alimony is the money that one spouse pays the other to assist in paying for living expenses. There are two main types of alimony available in New Hampshire. These two types are Temporary and permanent. Temporary alimony is designed to provide support on a short-term basis, usually one the spouse can prepare to re-enter the job market. Permanent alimony lasts for a specific period of time. Alimony payments may be made in regular installments (monthly) or in a lump sum. Some of the things that will determine the type, length, and amount of alimony include:
Length of marriage
Age of spouses
Health of spouses
Job history and education of both spouses
Ability of each spouse to get income
Couples who are unable to reach an agreement as to the settlement terms of the divorce they may be required to get mediation. A mediator is a professional who will assist in guiding couples through negotiations in order to come to a compromise. Before speaking to a mediator consult with your New Hampshire divorce attorney. Your lawyer may want to be present during these negotiations. Once couples can agree to the settlement terms, the divorce can be concluded.
A Brief Guide to Divorces In New Hampshire
What proof is required in order to get a divorce in New Hampshire?
In the beginning of divorce proceedings, the plaintiff must prove to the New Hampshire court that there exists legal grounds that the judge should allow a couple to divorce. In New Hampshire, there are two types of grounds:
At Fault Divorces
In the at fault category, an “innocent” spouse has been purportedly harmed by the actions of the “guilty” spouse. By committing this wrongful behavior, the guilty spouse is “at fault” for the divorce. The at fault grounds New Hampshire law recognizes include:
No Fault Divorces
New Hampshire law enables spouses to pursue a no fault divorce. In this scenario, a court is not allowed to consider, and the involved parties do not argue, over who was “at fault” in the divorce. If one or both spouses can agree or prove that irreconcilable differences exist that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage, the divorce will be allowed.
Am I required to live in New Hampshire if I want to get a divorce there?
The answer will depend primarily on who is requesting the divorce. New Hampshire laws enable NH judges to maintain jurisdiction over a divorce case if at least one of the following three conditions are met:
We have already filed divorce papers, but now my spouse and I want to try to work things out. What do we do now?
If divorce proceedings have already been started, but have not yet been finalized, and a couple chooses to try and salvage their marriage, then one of two primary elements must be proven.
First and foremost, a couple must be able to demonstrate to a judge that there is a strong likelihood that the marriage relationship can be rehabilitated. Simply put, this means the couple must show it is probable that they can improve their relationship. If so, New Hampshire state law dictates that the judge must refer a couple to a counseling agency upon their request.
Secondly, a couple must be able to prove to a judge that there exists a “reasonable possibility of reconciliation”. The divorce laws in New Hampshire deem that the judge must “continue the proceedings.” This is also commonly referred to as a continuance. In essence, the divorce proceedings are put on hold while the couple attends court ordered marriage counseling. The judge is responsible for selecting the counselor, but they are also required to make every effort to find a counselor who is covered by the couple’s health insurance plan.
How long does it take to obtain a divorce in New Hampshire?
The answer to this question primarily depends upon the specific facts that surround a case and both parties’ ability to cooperate and compromise with one another. If a couple is able to reach an agreement on most issues, and there are no children or outstanding debts involved, then a divorce can be completed in as little as 3-6 months. However, if a couple is unable to agree on certain issues, like child custody or the division of marital property, then it could take several years to resolve a divorce case.
New Hampshire offers divorcing couples the opportunity to use certain resources, like mediation and collaborative practice, to resolve their divorce case without having to go through the New Hampshire court system. If two spouses can approach the case with open minds, then they will be able to obtain a final divorce decree much more quickly.
To learn more about the divorce process in New Hampshire, contact one of our experienced divorce attorneys today to set up a free consultation.
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