Divorce in New Hampshire: Getting a New Hampshire divorce requires residents to follow certain rules and steps in order to engage a court. The two options for obtaining a divorce are contested and uncontested.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on everything and the only thing a court needs to do is approve the divorce.
In either case mentioned above, the process for getting a divorce in New Hampshire always begins by researching the case and compiling all applicable data.
One of the first decisions you need to make is whether to hire an attorney. In contested cases, more steps are involved in the process and since there are issues in dispute, it is highly recommended to seek the counsel of an attorney.
In an uncontested divorce in New Hampshire, an attorney may not be necessary, but careful study of multiple legal resources is an important part of the process.
Many attorney websites, online agencies, and the New Hampshire Judicial branch maintain online information to help both prepare for a divorce in New Hampshire and explain the court rules to anyone unfamiliar with the process.
When researching information offline, visiting the court clerk’s office or seeking forms and information in a legal library are two other options.
As mentioned above, it is important to do some research as filling out any of the necessary forms wrong can severely damage a case along with causing the court not to accept all documents.
The following steps are not all inclusive as a variety of issues comes out of divorce cases that the law does not immediately address, but these steps do serve as a guide to help anyone filing for a divorce in New Hampshire.
Step 1. Compile all information covering assets, liabilities, property, child issues, and finances. Seek an agreement with your spouse. If both spouses agree at the beginning of the divorce, the steps involved and the emotional trauma are much easier to handle.
Step 2. Obtain and fill out the necessary forms. If both spouses agree to the divorce, even if property division or parental rights are in dispute, you should both file a Joint Petition for Divorce and a Personal Data Sheet. Otherwise, an individual petitioning for divorce needs to fill out the Petition for Divorce along with a Personal Data Sheet.
Step 3. Once the petition is filed, the respondent or non-filing spouse is served with the divorce papers by having the spouse pick up the papers at the court, sending them via certified mail, or having the sheriff’s department serve the divorce papers. This step is avoided when filing a joint petition as no service is necessary.
Step 4. After service is done, the respondent will be offered the opportunity to provide an answer. During this period, you will be scheduled for a First Appearance Session. At this meeting, a judge will explain the court process and cover important issues relating to involved children if applicable. Also at this meeting, a date will be set for the next step in the divorce process.
Step 5. To complete the divorce in New Hampshire you will need Financial Affidavits completed by both parties, a Vital Statistics Form, and a Final Decree of Divorce. When children are involved, the list of forms also includes a certificate of completion of the child impact seminar, a parenting plan, uniform support order, and the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
Step 6. If the case is uncontested, meaning nothing needs to be decided by the court, a decree may be issued without the need for a final hearing, and without the divorcing individuals showing up for court. This requires both parties to waive attendance and provide a full settlement agreement to the court detailing how everything is to be split.
Step 7. In a contested situation, you and your spouse will need to attend a trial. Prior to the trial, a pretrial hearing may be necessary. At a minimum, both parties must exchange such items as lists of witnesses, copies of all exhibits submitted to the court, proposed final decrees, and paperwork detailing any agreements already made.
Step 8. Attend the trial and the court will rule on how to split everything contested. The judge will sign a final decree and the divorce will be finalized.
As mentioned above, these steps do not cover every part of the divorce in New Hampshire process for every unique case. One issue not mentioned in these steps is mediation.
Mediation is the process where both parties meet with a mediator (impartial party) to help reach an agreement and avoid the need for a trial. Reaching an agreement saves both parties in time and money, and keeps the court from processing a trial and determining how to split everything.