Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in New Hampshire
|Step 1||Meet residency requirements. You must have lived in New Hampshire for at least one year before filing for divorce.|
|Step 2||Determine your grounds for divorce. New Hampshire recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.|
|Step 3||File a petition for divorce with the appropriate court. You can file in the county where you or your spouse resides.|
|Step 4||Have your spouse served with the divorce papers. This can be done by a sheriff, constable, or other authorized person.|
|Step 5||Wait for your spouse’s response. Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce.|
|Step 6||Attend a hearing. If both parties agree to the divorce, the court will schedule a hearing to finalize the divorce.|
|Step 7||Receive the final divorce decree. Once the divorce is finalized, you will receive a final divorce decree from the court.|
Overview of Divorce in New Hampshire
Here’s an overview of what you need to know:
- New Hampshire allows both no-fault and fault-based divorces.
- No-fault divorces are granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences or living separately for at least two years.
- Fault-based divorces can be filed on various grounds such as adultery, extreme cruelty, desertion for two years or more, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, and imprisonment for three years or more.
- New Hampshire requires residency in the state for at least one year before filing for divorce.
- The court may grant either party alimony (also known as spousal support) based on factors such as duration of marriage and each spouse’s earning capacity and financial needs.
Explanation of Divorce Process in New Hampshire
Note that hiring a lawyer is not mandatory in New Hampshire but may be recommended depending on your circumstances. Additionally, it’s important to understand that while some aspects of divorces are predictable such as filing deadlines and procedures others like how assets are divided can vary from one case to another based on unique factors involved..
Reasons for Divorce in New Hampshire
Note that while fault-based divorces require proof of wrongdoing by one spouse, they do not necessarily result in different outcomes from no-fault divorces when it comes to property division or spousal support. It’s important to consult with an attorney to determine which option is best suited to your specific situation.
Residency Requirements for Filing Divorce in New Hampshire
- Actual Residency: This means physically living in New Hampshire for at least one year prior to filing.
- Domicile: This refers to establishing New Hampshire as your primary residence with the intent to make it your permanent home, even if you have been living elsewhere temporarily.
It’s important to note that the court will require proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or lease agreement. Additionally, if both spouses live outside of New Hampshire but their marriage took place within the state and one spouse still resides there, they may still be able to file for divorce in New Hampshire.
Types of Divorce in New Hampshire
In addition to these two types of divorces, New Hampshire also recognizes a legal separation which allows couples who are not ready for a full divorce to live separately while still addressing important issues such as financial support and parenting plans. Legal separations do not terminate a marriage but rather establish certain legal rights and obligations during the period of separation.
If both spouses can agree on all the terms of their divorce, they may be able to file for an uncontested divorce. This process is generally faster and less expensive than a contested divorce, which requires litigation in court. Here’s what you need to know about uncontested divorces in New Hampshire:
- Both parties must sign a settlement agreement that addresses all aspects of the divorce, including property division, spousal support (if any), child custody, and child support.
- The agreement must be submitted to the court along with other required documents such as financial affidavits and parenting plans if children are involved.
- The court will review the settlement agreement to ensure it complies with state laws before approving it and issuing a final decree of divorce.
Benefits of Uncontested Divorce
- It can be less expensive than going through litigation.
- It can be less time-consuming and stressful than going through a court battle.
- The parties have more control over the outcome since they reach an agreement on their own instead of having one imposed by a judge.
Note that uncontested divorces still require attention to detail and legal knowledge in order to ensure that all necessary paperwork is properly filed, all issues are adequately addressed, and the final agreement will hold up in court. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help you navigate this process smoothly.
Requirements for Uncontested Divorce
In an uncontested divorce, both parties sign a marital settlement agreement that outlines how they will divide property and handle other matters related to their separation. The agreement is then submitted to a judge for approval along with all necessary paperwork. If approved, a final decree of divorce will be issued by the court within a few weeks or months depending on caseloads..
Procedure for Uncontested Divorce
If you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce such as property division, alimony, and child custody (if applicable), an uncontested divorce may be a viable option. Here are the steps involved in this process:
- Complete the necessary forms: The first step is to complete the required forms which can be found on the New Hampshire Court website. These forms include a Petition for Divorce, a Financial Affidavit form, and others.
- File with the court: Once you have completed all necessary forms, file them with your local court along with a filing fee.
- Serve your spouse: You must serve your spouse with copies of all filed documents.
- Wait for response: Your spouse has up to thirty days to respond once they receive papers from you. If they do not respond within that time frame then it is considered as no contest or default judgment has been made against them by default
- Final hearing: If everything goes smoothly, there will be a final hearing where both parties sign off on the agreement before it becomes legally binding.
In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to agree on one or more issues related to their divorce. This can include matters such as property division, alimony, child custody and support, and more. In this situation:
- The court may require mediation before proceeding with a trial.
- If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial where each party presents evidence and arguments supporting their position.
- The judge will then make a final decision based on the evidence presented in court.
A contested divorce can be emotionally draining and financially costly due to legal fees incurred during the process. It’s important for both parties to consider alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaborative law or arbitration which can help resolve differences without going through an extensive trial process in court.
Benefits of Contested Divorce
A contested divorce is one in which the spouses cannot agree on all of the issues involved in ending their marriage, such as child custody, property division or spousal support. While it can be a stressful and time-consuming process, there are some potential benefits to choosing a contested divorce:
- You have more control over the outcome: In a contested divorce, the court will ultimately decide how assets are divided and other key issues. However, by presenting your case effectively through an attorney you may be able to sway decisions in your favor
- It can lead to fairer outcomes: If one spouse holds all of the cards when it comes to information about finances or other important details related to marital property for example then they could use that knowledge against the other party during negotiations. A contested divorce ensures that both sides must disclose everything so everyone is working with equal information.
- It can give closure: For some people a prolonged legal battle might seem like too much but for others going through each aspect of their former life with their partner provides closure.
Requirements for Contested Divorce
In a contested divorce, the spouses do not agree on all aspects of the divorce, such as property division or child custody. In New Hampshire, requirements for a contested divorce include:
- Proof of residency in New Hampshire for at least one year
- Filing a “Petition for Divorce” with the court and serving it to the other spouse
- Attending hearings and providing evidence to support your case
- Negotiating with your spouse or their attorney to try to reach an agreement outside of court
- If no agreement is reached, attending trial where a judge will make decisions regarding any outstanding issues.
Procedure for Contested Divorce
- File a petition: The first step is to file a petition with the court in your county. This document outlines your requests for property division, spousal support, child custody and visitation.
- Serve papers: You must serve your spouse with copies of all documents filed with the court including summons that notifies them about their right to respond.
- Discovery process: Both parties will have an opportunity to gather information through discovery which includes interrogatories (written questions), requests for production of documents or objects, and depositions (oral questioning under oath).
- Negotiation and mediation: You may attempt negotiation and/or mediation before trial to settle any issues that are still disputed. If you reach an agreement on some or all of these issues then your lawyer can help draft settlement agreement outlining the specific terms agreed upon.
- Court trial: If no resolution has been reached by this point then both parties present evidence supporting their positions at trial where judge hears testimony from witnesses and makes decisions regarding equitable distribution based on legal principles outlined by state law.
Filing for Divorce in New Hampshire
After attending mediation, if both parties still cannot reach an agreement, then they will proceed to trial where decisions regarding contested issues will be made by a judge. Once all issues have been resolved and any necessary paperwork has been signed, the court can issue final orders and grant the divorce decree.
Preparing the Divorce Petition
Once you’ve decided to file for divorce in New Hampshire, the next step is preparing and filing the petition. Here’s what you need to know:
- The petitioner (the spouse initiating the divorce) must complete a Petition for Divorce form, which can be obtained from the family division of the local court or online.
- The petition must include basic information about both spouses such as names, addresses, date of marriage and grounds for divorce.
- If children are involved, additional forms may be required such as a Parenting Plan or Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
- The petition must be filed with the appropriate court along with a filing fee. The fee varies depending on county but typically ranges between $200-$400. If you cannot afford this fee you can request that it be waived by filling out an Application to Waive Filing Fee.
You may also need to provide additional documentation depending on your circumstances. For example:
- If you own property together with your spouse or have significant assets, you may need to provide property appraisals or other valuations.
- If domestic violence has been an issue in your marriage, you may need to file additional paperwork related to restraining orders or protective orders.
- If you have children together and are seeking custody or visitation rights, you may need to provide evidence such as school records or witness statements that support your case.
Grounds for Divorce
Note that fault-based divorces require proof of wrongdoing by one spouse and can result in different outcomes from no-fault divorces when it comes to property division or spousal support. It’s important to consult with an attorney to determine which option is best suited to your specific situation.
Filing the Divorce Petition
Once you have decided to file for divorce, the first step is to prepare and file a petition with the court. Here’s what you need to know:
- The petitioner (the spouse who initiates the divorce) must complete a Petition for Divorce form that includes information such as names of both spouses, grounds for divorce, residency requirements, property owned by each spouse, and any children involved.
- The completed petition must be filed with the Family Division of the New Hampshire Circuit Court in the county where either spouse resides.
- A filing fee is required at this stage; however, if you cannot afford it then there are forms available to request a waiver of fees due to financial hardship.
- Filing fee: The current filing fee for a petition for divorce in New Hampshire is $210.
- Service of process fee: If the respondent (the other spouse) needs to be served with papers, there may be an additional cost for this service.
- Motion and hearing fees: There may be additional costs if you need to file motions or attend hearings during the course of your divorce proceedings.
It’s important to note that these fees are subject to change and may vary depending on your specific circumstances. Additionally, if you cannot afford the court fees, you may qualify for a waiver based on your income level. Be sure to consult with an attorney or the court clerk’s office about any questions regarding court fees or waivers.
Service of Process
Service of process is the legal procedure of providing notice to the other spouse that a divorce petition has been filed. Here’s what you need to know:
- In New Hampshire, service of process can be done by mail, personal delivery or through a sheriff or constable.
- If your spouse cannot be located, you may be required to take additional steps such as publishing a notice in the newspaper.
- Your spouse will have an opportunity to respond after being served with the divorce papers. If they do not respond within 30 days (or longer if they live out of state), you may be able to obtain a default judgment.
Response to Divorce Petition
In cases where there are contested issues, both parties will typically engage in discovery which is the process of gathering evidence and information relevant to their case. This can include requests for documents and depositions where witnesses provide testimony under oath. Ultimately, if both sides cannot come to an agreement on all issues through negotiation or mediation, they will proceed to trial where a judge will make decisions about any unresolved matters based on evidence presented during proceedings.
Timeframe for Response
If a response is filed within 30 days, both parties will be required to attend a court hearing where they will discuss any disagreements regarding property division, child custody arrangements or spousal support payments. This hearing may be scheduled several months after initial filing depending on court schedules and backlog.
In a divorce case, the respondent (the spouse who did not file for divorce) may file a counterclaim if they disagree with the grounds or terms of the petitioner’s (the filing spouse) complaint. Here are some things to know about counterclaims in New Hampshire:
- A counterclaim must be filed within 30 days after service of the initial petition.
- The grounds for a counterclaim can be different from those of the original complaint but must still meet New Hampshire’s requirements for divorce.
- A counterclaim can include requests for relief such as alimony, property division, and child custody.
Discovery Process in Divorce
The discovery process is a critical step in the divorce process as it allows both parties to gather information and evidence needed to support their case. Here’s what you need to know about the discovery process in New Hampshire:
- Discovery can be done through various methods including requests for production of documents, written interrogatories, depositions, and subpoenas.
- Both spouses are required by law to provide full financial disclosures to each other which includes providing detailed information about assets, debts, income sources and expenses.
- If one party fails or refuses to comply with the discovery request then the other spouse may file a motion with the court seeking enforcement of compliance. This could result in sanctions being imposed on non-compliant parties such as fines or even dismissal of their case..
Disclosure of Financial Information
One important aspect of divorce proceedings in New Hampshire is the disclosure of financial information. Both parties are required to submit a detailed inventory of all their assets, liabilities, and income sources. This information is used by the court to determine an equitable division of property and spousal support.
- The types of financial documents that may need to be disclosed include bank statements, tax returns, investment portfolios, real estate deeds or mortgages, and retirement account statements.
- If one spouse suspects that the other is hiding assets or income sources, they can request discovery procedures such as depositions or subpoenas.
- Failing to disclose financial information truthfully or attempting to hide assets can have serious consequences for both parties in a divorce case.
Required Financial Documents
If one party suspects that the other is hiding assets or income, they may request additional information through legal means such as subpoenas. It’s important to be transparent about finances during divorce proceedings to ensure a fair outcome for both parties involved.
Deadline for Disclosure
The deadline for disclosing this information is typically within 45 days of filing for divorce or being served with a divorce petition. During this time, both parties are required to provide documentation regarding their income, expenses, assets, and debts. Examples of documents that may need to be provided include tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, investment account statements and loan documents.
Keep in mind that requirements may vary depending on your unique situation and it’s always a good idea consult with an attorney who can guide you through this process.
Depositions are a common part of the divorce process in New Hampshire. They are essentially interviews conducted under oath, usually between one spouse and the other spouse’s attorney, but sometimes with third parties as well. Here’s what you need to know:
- Depositions can be used to gather information about assets, debts, and other relevant details that might not have been disclosed previously.
- The purpose of depositions is to allow each side to better understand the other side’s case so they can negotiate or prepare for trial more effectively.
- You should always prepare for your deposition with your lawyer beforehand by reviewing documents and answering practice questions.
- It’s important to be honest during depositions because anything said under oath can be used against you later in court if it contradicts something else you say or do.
Purpose of Depositions
Depositions are a key part of the divorce process in New Hampshire. They serve several important purposes, including:
- Gathering evidence: Depositions allow both parties to gather information and evidence about the case from each other and from witnesses.
- Evaluating witnesses: Depositions give attorneys an opportunity to evaluate the credibility of potential witnesses before trial.
- Negotiating settlements: Sometimes depositions can lead to settlement negotiations between parties that avoid going through with a full-blown trial.
Procedure for Depositions
Depositions are a common part of the divorce process in New Hampshire. Depositions are essentially pre-trial interviews where each side can ask questions and gather information from witnesses or other parties involved in the case. Here’s what you need to know about depositions:
- In order to conduct a deposition, one party must request it from the other party through their attorneys.
- A court reporter is present during the deposition to record everything that is said.
- The person being deposed (also known as the deponent) is under oath and must answer all questions truthfully.
- The attorney asking questions has wide latitude in terms of what they can ask, as long as it’s relevant to the case at hand.
Once the divorce process is initiated, both parties will need to come to a settlement agreement regarding property division, child custody and support, and alimony if applicable. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- New Hampshire follows an equitable distribution model when dividing marital property which means that assets are divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
- If you have children under the age of 18, you will need to create a parenting plan outlining how decisions about their upbringing will be made and how time with each parent will be allocated.
- The court may order one spouse to pay child support based on factors such as each parent’s income and the amount of time spent with the child.
- If alimony is awarded by the court it can either be temporary or permanent depending on various circumstances including length of marriage, earning capacity of both spouses etc..
Negotiating a Settlement
If negotiation fails or is not possible, then litigation is necessary. In this case, hiring an experienced family law attorney becomes crucial as they will represent your interests before the court during all stages of litigation including discovery, mediation or trial if necessary..
Benefits of Settlement
Divorce settlements can be reached through negotiations, mediation, or collaborative law. Some benefits of settling out of court include:
- Faster resolution: Settling outside of court can be much quicker than going to trial and waiting for a judge’s decision.
- Less expensive: Avoiding the costs associated with litigation such as attorney fees and court costs can save both parties money.
- More control over outcomes: Couples who settle have more say in the final outcome than those who go to trial where decisions are made by a judge.
- Reduced emotional toll: Divorce is already emotionally draining but going to trial adds additional stress on both parties. Settling outside of court can reduce this burden.
Procedure for Negotiating Settlement
Keep in mind that if negotiations break down or one party is not willing to compromise it might become necessary to go through litigation which can add cost , time and emotional stress.
Mediation is a popular alternative to traditional divorce litigation in New Hampshire. In mediation, both parties work with a neutral third-party mediator to reach agreements on issues such as child custody, property division and spousal support. Here are some things you should know about mediation:
- The mediator does not make decisions for the couple but instead helps them communicate and negotiate effectively.
- Mediation can be less expensive and less time-consuming than going through the court system.
- If an agreement is reached through mediation, it must still be approved by a judge before becoming legally binding.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation is a non-adversarial process that can be used to resolve disputes in divorce cases. Here are some benefits of mediation:
- Cost-effective: Mediation is generally less expensive than going to court, as it does not involve lengthy litigation and attorney fees.
- Faster resolution: Mediation sessions can usually be scheduled more quickly than court hearings, allowing for faster resolution of the divorce case.
- Mutually beneficial solutions: In mediation, both parties work together with a neutral mediator to find mutually acceptable solutions that take into account their individual needs and interests.
- More control over outcome: Unlike in court where a judge makes the final decision, in mediation, the parties have more control over the outcome of their case because they participate directly in negotiations and decision-making.
Procedure for Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can help divorcing couples reach an agreement outside of court. Here’s what you need to know about the mediation process in New Hampshire:
- The first step is to find a qualified mediator who can facilitate discussions between you and your spouse.
- You will then attend one or more mediation sessions, during which you will work with the mediator to identify issues and potential solutions related to your divorce.
- If you are able to reach an agreement through mediation, the mediator will draft a memorandum of understanding for both parties to sign.
- This memorandum can then be submitted to the court as part of your final divorce decree.
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody or visitation, then the case may proceed to trial. Here’s what you can expect:
- The judge will hear testimony from both parties and their witnesses.
- The judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented during the trial and applicable New Hampshire law.
- Keep in mind that trials can be time-consuming and costly so it’s important to try to reach an agreement with your spouse before resorting to this option if possible.
Procedure for Trial
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement, a trial may be necessary. Here’s what you can expect during the procedure for trial:
- A pre-trial conference will be held where both parties meet with the judge to discuss any outstanding issues.
- During the trial itself, each party presents evidence and testimony supporting their respective positions.
- The judge then makes a decision on unresolved issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody and support based on applicable laws in New Hampshire.
Role of Judge
In some cases, a judge may appoint a mediator or guardian ad litem to help resolve disputes or protect the interests of any children involved. It’s important for both parties to be open and honest with their attorneys so they can present the strongest possible case before the judge.
Finalizing the Divorce
After the divorce is finalized:
- Both parties are legally allowed to remarry
- Each spouse must adhere to any agreed upon terms of alimony payments or property division
- If there are children involved, each parent is responsible for adhering to any agreed upon custody and visitation schedule as well as paying child support according to state guidelines.
In summary, getting divorced in New Hampshire can be complicated but understanding the process can help you navigate through it more easily. With careful consideration and proper guidance from an experienced attorney, you can achieve a positive outcome that allows you to move forward with your life.
If either spouse fails to comply with the terms outlined in the decree, legal action can be taken against them.
Note that modifying or appealing a divorce decree can be challenging and time-consuming, so it’s important to work closely with an attorney during this process.
Contents of Divorce Decree
It’s important to carefully review and understand all aspects of the divorce decree once it is issued by the court. If you have questions or concerns about its contents, consult with an attorney who can help explain your rights and obligations under New Hampshire law.
Finality of Divorce Decree
The finality of a divorce decree means that both parties are free to move on with their lives as single individuals. They can remarry and are no longer subject to obligations or restrictions imposed by the marriage.
If any issues arise regarding child custody or support payments in the future after a divorce is finalized, either party can request modifications from the court based on changes in circumstances.
It’s important to work closely with an attorney throughout all stages of your divorce case so you can feel confident that your rights and interests are protected every step of the way.
Child Custody and Support
When children are involved in a divorce, issues of child custody and support become paramount. Here’s what you need to know:
- New Hampshire courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation.
- The court may award joint or sole legal custody and/or physical custody to one or both parents based on factors such as each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, their relationship with the child, and any history of abuse or neglect.
Alimony and Property Division
In terms of property division, New Hampshire follows what is known as “equitable distribution,” meaning that marital property (property acquired during the course of the marriage) is divided fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses. Factors considered when dividing property may include:
- The length of the marriage and contributions each party made to it
- The age and health status of both parties >
- Each party’s earning capacity or income potential >
liThe value and nature (cash, real estate, etc.)of assets owned by both parties.
Remember that divorces involve a lot of legal paperwork and court proceedings, but ultimately they are about moving forward with your life. Whether you choose a fault-based or no-fault divorce, it’s important to prioritize your well-being as well as any children or dependents involved in the process.
We hope this guide has provided some helpful information on how to file for divorce in New Hampshire.
Final Thoughts on Divorce in New Hampshire
Divorce is a difficult and emotional process, but having an understanding of the divorce process in New Hampshire can help make it more manageable. Here are some final thoughts to keep in mind:
- Make sure you meet the residency requirement before filing for divorce.
- Consider hiring an attorney to help guide you through the legal process and ensure your rights are protected.
- If children are involved, prioritize their well-being throughout the process and work towards finding a custody arrangement that works best for them.
- Taking care of yourself emotionally during this time is important. Consider seeking therapy or counseling if needed.
Resources for Further Assistance
Additionally, there are various support groups available for those going through a divorce or separation. These can provide emotional support and guidance during what can be a difficult time. Some options include:
- The Divorce Support Group of Southern NH
- The Separation & Divorce Support Group at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, NH
- The Women’s Resource Center in Portsmouth, NH offers counseling services for women going through divorces or separations
FAQ on ‘Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in New Hampshire’
What are the grounds for divorce in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the only ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences. However, fault-based grounds such as adultery, extreme cruelty or abandonment can be considered by the court when determining issues such as property division and alimony.
How do I start the divorce process in New Hampshire?
You must file a Petition for Divorce with the Family Division of the New Hampshire Circuit Court in the county where either you or your spouse lives. You will need to provide information about your marriage, assets, and children (if any).
Do I need a lawyer to file for divorce in New Hampshire?
No, you do not need a lawyer to file for divorce in New Hampshire. However, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and that all necessary paperwork is completed correctly.
How long does it take to get a divorce in New Hampshire?
The length of time it takes to get a divorce in New Hampshire varies depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce can typically be finalized within a few months, while a contested divorce can take much longer.