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New Hampshire’s Child Custody Law: A Guide for Parents

Divorce is a challenging process for everyone involved, but it can be especially complex and emotionally charged when children are involved. Understanding New Hampshire’s child custody law is crucial for parents who are navigating the divorce process. This short guide aims to shed light on key aspects of child custody in New Hampshire, helping parents to make informed decisions that are in the best interests of their children.

 Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

In New Hampshire, child custody is divided into two main categories: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make significant decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious instruction. Physical custody, on the other hand, pertains to where the child will live.

The court’s primary consideration in determining both types of custody is the child’s best interests. This involves evaluating various factors, such as each parent’s relationship with the child, the child’s home environment, and the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.

Joint vs. Sole Custody

New Hampshire’s child custody law favors joint custody arrangements whenever possible, as it is generally believed that maintaining strong relationships with both parents is in the child’s best interests. Joint legal custody allows both parents to share in decision-making, while joint physical custody involves the child spending significant time living with each parent.

However, there are situations where sole custody may be deemed necessary, particularly if one parent is found to be unfit or if there are concerns about the child’s safety. In such cases, one parent may be granted sole legal and/or physical custody.

The Best Interests of the Child

The concept of the “best interests of the child” is central to decisions in New Hampshire’s child custody law. The court considers a number of factors to determine what arrangement will best serve the child’s welfare, including:

– The child’s relationship with each parent and any siblings
– Each parent’s ability to provide a stable, nurturing environment
– The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
– The mental and physical health of all parties involved

Modification of Custody Orders

Circumstances change, and a custody arrangement that once served the best interests of a child may no longer be appropriate. New Hampshire child custody law recognizes this and allows for the modification of custody orders. To modify an existing order, the requesting parent must demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred and that a modification is necessary to serve the child’s best interests. A modification can be difficult and complex and is often opposed by the other parent.

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Navigating the laws in New Hampshire child custody laws can be complex, but understanding the basics is the first step towards securing a positive outcome for your child. Here are a few final tips:

  1.  It’s essential to remember that the court’s primary concern is the welfare of the child, and decisions are made with their best interests in mind.
  2. Set aside your emotions as much as possible so you can be free from making impulsive decisions.
  3. Remember that although you may not like the other parent, your child loves them.  Be cautious of things you say about the other parent, especially when in the company of your child.
  4. If you’re going through a divorce and facing custody decisions, consider seeking the guidance of a our office.  Christine is an experienced family lawyer with over 20 years experience working with families.  She can help you understand your rights and options and represent you in seeking custody or a modification.  You can schedule an appointment here.
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