Divorce Terms 2017-10-13T04:07:27+00:00

Below is an alphabetical list of legal terms commonly used in divorce in New Hampshire

Alimony: Support payments that one spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse because of a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to provide support to a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable him or her to become financially independent. Alimony is sometimes known as “maintenance” or “spousal support.”


Annulment: This will dissolve a marriage. It is different from a divorce because an annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened. Annulments are only allowed when the marriage was void to begin with. A marriage is void to begin with if there was bigamy, incest, or minors involved. People may try to get an annulment over a divorce because of the stigma surrounding divorce.


Answer: What the respondent-spouse must file in response to the petitioner-spouse’s complaint. If you do not file an answer, the divorce may result in a default judgment.

Burden of Proof: A party’s duty to prove the truth of his or her claims in the lawsuit.

Child Support: The amount of money that a court will order one or both parents to pay every month to help support their child.


Counterclaim: In response to a petitioner-spouse’s divorce complaint, the respondent-spouse may file a counterclaim if he or she wants to list different reasons for the divorce.

Default: If the respondent-spouse fails to respond to the petitioner’s complaint after being properly served, the petitioner will usually be granted all the relief sought in the complaint.


Deposition: Through a lawyer, one spouse can ask the other spouse questions, under oath, in front of a court reporter. Before conducting a deposition, you need permission from the court. To get permission, you must file a motion to take a deposition.


Discovery: The stage of a lawsuit where the parties exchange information. This is crucial in a divorce case when one spouse is unaware of the extent of marital assets and estate. Discovery is also useful to obtain documents and other evidence that is needed for settlement or trial.


Divorce: The legal process for ending a marriage.


Divorce Petition: The legal document you must first file in getting a divorce in New Hampshire.

Equitable Distribution: The way marital property is distributed by law in a divorce action in New Hampshire. This does not necessarily mean 50% of one asset to one party and 50% to the other. Distribution is based on various factors presented to the court. This is sometimes called Equitable Division.


Ex parte: An ex parte decision/hearing is one in which there is only one party present and the judge will make a decision regarding the information only presented by that one party.

Fault Grounds: The different legal justifications for getting a divorce. Many states have abolished fault grounds, but New Hampshire still allows certain faults as grounds for divorce (i.e. adultery, impotency, etc.).

Guardian ad Litem (GAL): A GAL is appointed when parents cannot agree on a parenting plan for their children. The GAL is typically appointed to investigate specific issues that are in dispute. The court will order how much money each parent is required to pay for the GAL, unless either party is indigent.

Interrogatories: During discovery, one party may submit interrogatories to the other party. These are written questions that are helpful in obtaining information. One party may ask up to 30 written questions.


Irreconcilable Differences: This is one of the no-fault grounds in New Hampshire.

Legal Separation: Legal separation is the same legal process as divorce; it resolves child support/custody, spousal support, and property division issues. However, unlike divorce, after a legal separation, you are still legally married. You cannot remarry after a legal separation. Even though some states do not recognize legal separation, New Hampshire does recognize it.


Litigation: The court process for a contested divorce. It only takes one spouse to engage in litigation through filing a complaint for divorce, that in turn, forces the other spouse on the defensive side.

Marital Property: Property and assets accumulated during a marriage that may qualify for equitable distribution during a divorce.


Mediation: This is an alternative method to litigation for dissolving your marriage. This method works for couples that desire an amicable divorce and can cooperate with each other. Couples meet with a neutral, third party (i.e. the “mediator”) to discuss and work out the terms of their divorce. Unlike arbitration, mediation is a voluntary process which requires cooperation and compromise by each party, so a binding resolution can be made. Mediation is also unlike arbitration because the parties create their own agreement based on their own negotiations.


Motion: A request in writing to the court. The purpose of filing a motion is to obtain a court order from the judge that will provide a temporary solution to a problem. For example, a motion for temporary child support.

No Fault Grounds: In New Hampshire, no-fault grounds are legal reasons for divorce that the court will allow. There are two no-fault grounds in New Hampshire: (1) irreconcilable differences, and (2) being separated for 2 years.


Non-Marital Property: Non-marital property is property accumulated prior to the marriage, property that was inherited at any time, or property given as a gift at any time. Non-marital property is generally not available for equitable distribution in a divorce. Note that originally non-marital property may become marital property in certain cases. Such as if there is income created from the non-marital property or the value increased during the marriage.

Obligee: In terms of child/spousal support, the obligee receives the support. This is sometimes called the payee.


Obligor: In terms of child/spousal support, the obligor pays the support. This is sometimes called the payor.

Petitioner: The label for the person filing for divorce.

Respondent: The label for the person who responds to the divorce.


Return of Service: Return of service is a written acknowledgement by a process server stating that there was service of legal documents, such as a summons and complaint.


Request for Admission: During discovery, one party may submit to the other party a written set of statements that the other party must either admit or deny.


Request for Production of Documents: This is an official request for documents that assists in the fact-finding process of discovery.

Service: Service is how the respondent-spouse receives a copy of the divorce complaint and summons (i.e. how the respondent-spouse is “served” with complaint and summons).


Summons: A paper form that is delivered or “served” on the respondent-spouse. The information on the summons is the relevant divorce case information.

Temporary Orders: Temporary orders may be filed with a complaint when one party needs a temporary resolution of issues while the divorce case is pending. For example, you may file a motion for temporary child support, motion for temporary alimony, motion for temporary payment of household expenses, etc. These are not necessarily final orders, and may or may not continue after the divorce is final.

Venue: This is the county or district in which the divorce is filed.