In New Hampshire, Family Division courts handles cases involving divorce and parenting actions between unmarried persons. The governing law is Title XLIII, Domestic Relations, Chapter 458 (“RSA 458”). The person filing for divorce is known as the petitioner and the person responding to the divorce petition is known as the respondent.
Within any divorce, issues that must be considered in such actions are as follows, yet some may not apply to your case:
- Child custody;
- Child support;
- Visitation of children;
- Division of assets/property;
- Division of debt;
- And more.
To file for a divorce in any state, you must satisfy the state’s residency requirements. In New Hampshire, both parties must live in New Hampshire the petitioner (the filing spouse) must have lived in New Hampshire for one year or the petitioner lives in New Hampshire and their spouse can be served with divorce papers in New Hampshire.
Grounds for divorce means legally recognized reasons for divorcing. New Hampshire recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Traditionally, all states had only “fault” grounds for divorce (adultery, impotency, abuse, etc.). However, many states have abolished fault grounds altogether and only utilize “no-fault” grounds. However, New Hampshire retains certain grounds for fault-based divorces. See the list of divorce grounds below:
No Fault Grounds in New Hampshire:
- Irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage, or separation of the spouses for at least 2 years.
- See full text of law: Section 458:7(a)
Fault Grounds in New Hampshire:
- Extreme cruelty,
- Imprisonment of 1 year or more,
- Endangerment by one spouse to the other,
- Habitual drunkard for at least 2 years,
- When either party has joined a religious sect which professes to believe the relationship of husband and wife unlawful,
- Abandonment of 2 years or cohabitation with another.
- See full text of law: Section 458:7
You may file a joint petition for divorce if you and your spouse agree on getting a divorce. This is much cheaper than filing as an individual because there is less paperwork and no formal service of process required. If you both agree to get a divorce, then your first step is to file a Joint Petition for Divorce along with a Personal Data Sheet in the Family Division court in your county. See a full list of courts under the Resources tab. What you do next depends on whether you have minor children. See Filing for Divorce in NH under the Information tab for details.
If you and your spouse are not in agreement to get a divorce, then you must file a Petition for Divorce along with a Personal Data Sheet. On top of filing the petition and data sheet, you must also serve your spouse. In New Hampshire, there are three ways you can serve your spouse: (1) have your spouse pick up the papers at the court house, (2) send the papers by certified mail, or (3) serve your spouse through the county sheriff. After you have filed the petition and served your spouse, you must engage in early financial disclosure. This is a mandatory step in the divorce process. See Filing for Divorce in NH under the Information tab for details.
You may have heard the term “venue.” This refers to which Family Division court will hear your case. There are 10 counties in New Hampshire and the petitioner should file in the county where he/she lives or the county where his/her spouse lives.
Counties in New Hampshire:
- Grafton County
- Carroll County
- Merrimack County
- Cheshire County
- Rockingham County
- Belknap County
- Coos County
- Strafford County
- Hillsborough County