According to the New Hampshire law regarding parental rights and responsibilities, specifically section 461-A: 2, children are considered to have proper development when both parents are present during their childhood. 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.
According to the New Hampshire Legal Aid, a parenting plan is meant to further the State’s intention to foster family relationships. In addition to this, family plans also encourage the cooperative working of parents in a way that benefits their child and keeps both parents involved in an active manner in their child’s life with the recognition that having a positive relationship between the children and both parents is the best practice for the children’s healthy development. The state and the courts consenting to these parenting plans have the expectation that both parents will always make decisions that are positive and have the best interests of the child coming first even if the parents’ interests are in conflict with those of the child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical report in 2002, parental conflicts before separation or divorce often leads to internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems among the affected children. This report also showed that divorce may have a long term effect of limiting or delaying a child’s capacity for intimacy and commitment as young adults. It is therefore essential for a good parenting plan to be available to ensure children are able to have positive relationships with both parents with limited exposure to parental conflicts so as to reduce the negative effects associated with divorce. Parental plans ensure that both parents abide by their responsibilities and duties which in turn reflect on the wellbeing of the child. Despite being divorced or separated, parental plans also ensure that children have access to both parents which enables them to maintain a stable relationship with them giving them a sense of belonging as opposed to having access to only one parent. The State of New Hampshire often prefers to keep a child’s living conditions stable with the best interests of the child in mind so as to ensure security and predictability.