Divorce in New Hampshire - The Basics:
A divorce in New Hampshire is initiated by the filing of a Petition for Divorce in the appropriate Family Division for the town in which you live. Most of the time, the reason for divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” This is a “no-fault” grounds for divorce that does not place blame on either spouse. It simply means that the spouses have grown apart, and their “differences” cannot be resolved to save the marriage. New Hampshire also has a list of “fault” grounds for divorce, including “adultery” and “extreme cruelty.” If you allege that it is the other party’s “fault” that you are filing for divorce, the divorce process will be more complicated and will take longer.
A divorce decree will result in a division of all of the marital assets and debts. The assets include all of the real estate, personal property, bank accounts, and retirement interests acquired during the marriage. The debts include things like loans, credit cards, and outstanding bills. Both the assets and the debts are required to be divided “equitably.” Most of the time, an “equitable” division is an “equal” division, but there are exceptions to this general rule.
For example, if Jane and John Doe own a $250,000 house with an outstanding mortgage of $150,000, there is $100,000 in “equity” to be shared. In the divorce decree, if John is awarded the house, John may also be ordered by the Court to pay Jane $50,000 for her interest in the home. This is an “equal” division of the asset (50% of the equity), and it is presumed to be fair. If Jane had made a $10,000 down payment on the home from money she had in her personal bank account before the marriage, John might have to pay her $60,000 ($50,000 for her interest, and $10,000 for her additional contribution). This is an “equitable” distribution. It is not even, but it is fair, because Jane paid more than John toward the real estate.
The details of the divorce decree can either be worked out by negotiation between the two spouses or decided by the Court after hearing(s). An attorney can help you decide whether to begin the process by filing a Petition for Divorce, writing a proposal to negotiate a divorce decree with your spouse, or contacting a mediator.
What are “unbundled legal services”?
In family law cases, attorneys are often requested to perform discrete services on behalf of a client as an alternative to filing a general appearance in court proceedings The attorney-client relationship may be restricted by agreement if the client wants assistance with only certain tasks and not full representation in court.
“Unbundled” services include such things as consultation and advice, pleading preparation, participation in mediation, review of mediated agreements, and limited appearances at court hearings. Some individuals just need help putting their thoughts and requests into writing when they want to file a motion with the court. Some people get nervous about standing before a judge to argue their case. Sometimes, clients just need advice to make sure that they understand the law as it applies to their case.
When an attorney provides unbundled legal services, an agreement must be reached with the client describing the specific legal task(s) to be performed. If the agreement includes attendance at a court hearing, the attorney will file a “limited appearance” that ends his or her involvement after the hearing is over.
With unbundled legal services, a client has the option to obtain legal assistance without the necessity of a long-term commitment to an attorney-client relationship. From an attorney’s perspective, providing unbundled services allows us to help clients where they need it the most.
Litigation: Is Going to Court the Best Choice?
Litigation can be costly and time consuming. There are options. If you are considering filing suit or have been sued, you may be surprised to know the following:
~ “Pro se” litigants, individuals who appear in court without legal representation, are accountable to the same procedural rules as parties that have attorneys.
~ In most cases in New Hampshire before any actual hearing, all parties are often required to participate in some form of mediation or other alternate dispute resolution process in an attempt to resolve their differences, and that participation in some type of alternate process may be possible even before suit is filed.
~ “Unbundled” legal services are now permitted, and allow for an attorney’s legal assistance without the necessity of a long-term commitment to an attorney-client relationship. This might take the form of advice only or preparing pleadings. To find out more, please see the article in this website, “What are “unbundled legal services”?
Our firm has experienced litigators in personal injury, family law, real estate, construction law, probate and business law matters, as well as trained mediators, arbitrators and neutral evaluators available to speak with you about your legal needs.
Link to resources: find court rules, state laws (RSAs), “Your Guide to New Hampshire Courts,” directions to court:
Do I have to pay child support? Will I receive child support? The answer, as with most questions in family law, is “it depends.”
There are lots of parents who equally divide their parenting time so that the children spend as much time with the mother as they do with the father. In these cases, the Court often orders that neither parent should pay child support to the other. However, even if two parents have equal parenting time, one may pay support to the other if he or she has a higher income. A goal of support is to ensure that children enjoy similar standards of living in each household. As one marital master puts it, the children should not be eating 85% lean hamburg in one house and filet mignon in the other.
In a large number of cases, one parent has primary residential responsibility (often described as “primary custody”) and the other parent has a schedule of parenting time (or “visitation”) with the children. The parent with primary residential responsibility is entitled to receive child support from the other parent. The amount of support is calculated in accordance with the New Hampshire Child Support Guidelines, which take into consideration the incomes of both parents, contributions to health insurance and day care costs for the children, and other factors. It is possible to request that the Court “deviate” from the Guidelines when ordering child support. If you feel that special circumstances would justify a higher or lower amount of child support than the Guidelines would require, consult with an attorney to discuss the factors that you want the Court to consider.