How New Hampshire Courts Determine Child Custody

Facing a New Hampshire divorce can be extremely stressful and challenging. When children are involved, emotions often run high. For many parents, the thought of losing custody of their children is devastating. New Hampshire family courts are encouraging separating or divorcing parents to share the responsibility and rights of raising children. Family court judges would rather allow parents to enter into joint-custody arrangements than award sole custody to one parent. However, in certain circumstances, a New Hampshire family court judge will award custody exclusively to one parent.

When Will a New Hampshire Judge Award Sole Custody?

A New Hampshire judge will award sole custody if he or she finds that shared custody would be detrimental to the health of the child or children. For example, if one parent has abused the children or the other parent, a court could find that awarding joint custody is inappropriate.

Divorcing Spouses Must Come Up with a Parenting Plan

In most cases, New Hampshire family court judges encourage parents to come up with a parenting plan. Both spouses should contribute to the terms of the parenting plan, which should address the following issues:

  • Decision-making or legal custody responsibilities
  • Residential responsibilities that involve physical custody
  • The location of the child’s legal residence
  • The child’s domicile for purposes of school attendance
  • The potential relocation of either parent
  • A procedure for adjusting and reviewing the parenting plan, if necessary
  • Methods for resolving disputes involving the parenting plan such as using a mediator
  • The amount of access to the child’s electronic information each parent will have
  • A parenting schedule that addresses holidays, birthdays, weekends, and vacations
  • The extent to which extended family may interact and engage with the children

When parents have a difficult time creating a parenting plan, a court may appoint a mediator to help. Third-party mediators who receive training in family law cases can help parents identify problematic issues and work toward agreeing. If divorcing parents still cannot agree on a parenting plan, a court may develop its parenting plan. The court may also make all necessary custody decisions on behalf of the parents.

Courts Make Determinations Based on the Best Interest of the Child

A factor test guides child custody decisions in New Hampshire. Family court judges consider the following factors when making determinations as to the child’s well-being:

  • The ability of each of the parents to provide adequate clothing, shelter, medical care, food, and a safe environment
  • The individual developmental needs of the child and each parent’s ability to meet those needs
  • The child’s ability to adjust to school
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the child with affection, love, nurturing, and guidance
  • Each parent’s ability to cooperate, communicate and make joint decisions
  • Any evidence of abuse
  • Each parent’s ability to foster a positive relationship with the child

Manchester, New Hampshire Family Law Attorneys

The attorneys at Ward Law Group understand how challenging child custody issues can be. If you need skilled legal assistance in a child custody manner, we can help. Contact our Manchester family law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation.