New Hampshire uses the phrase “parental rights and responsibilities” instead of child custody. The legal analysis for custody focuses on the best interest of the child. Section 461-A:6 governs the determination of parental rights and responsibilities (i.e. custody) and the child’s best interest factors. The issues surrounding child custody involve non-custodial parent visitation, legal custody, physical custody, and grandparent visitation.
In New Hampshire, there are two categories of custody: (1) legal custody, which is the decision-making responsibility of each parent. It is the parent’s right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing (i.e. health care, education, religious decisions), and (2) physical custody, which is the daily care of the child. The parent who gets physical custody tends to be the primary caretaker of the child.
Additionally, custody may be sole or joint. For example, the court may award both parents physical custody (joint physical custody) or only one parent physical custody (sole physical custody). Parents may also have sole or share legal custody (i.e. the right to make major decisions). Remember, the parent that does not have physical placement of the child may have visitation rights.
In determining custody, the court will conduct a best interest test. Factors that the court will consider are:
- The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
- The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment.
- The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet them, both in the present and in the future.
- The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s school and community and the potential effect of any change.
- The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
- The support of each parent for the child’s contact with the other parent as shown by allowing and promoting such contact, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
- The support of each parent for the child’s relationship with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
- The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child.
- The ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make joint decisions concerning the children, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
- Any evidence of abuse, as defined in RSA 173-B:1, I or RSA 169-C:3, II, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.
- If a parent is incarcerated, the reason for and the length of the incarceration, and any unique issues that arise as a result of incarceration.
- Any other additional factors the court deems relevant.
- See RSA 461-A:6 for full text of the law.