Divorce ends a marriage legally, along with the legal duties and responsibilities therein. Additionally, how to handle all assets, debts and children post-divorce are determined in the process.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Divorce is not an easy process. Emotions only cloud the complicated legal procedure. While yes, you can legally represent yourself; a divorce attorney is valuable in overseeing the progression and guaranteeing a fair result. If an attorney represents you, you are still in control of how the divorce is handled on your end.
Outside of Court
There are no two ways about it—trials are expensive and take time. If at all possible, resolving divorce conflicts should be handled outside of court with one of New Hampshire’s Alternative Dispute Resolution programs. Even filed cases rarely end up in trial time. If necessary, a mediator can help both parties come to an agreeable solution. Court should be reserved as the final step once all alternatives have been exhausted first.
New Hampshire is a no-fault or fault divorce state. This means you can have a no-fault divorce where neither part has to prove fault to get a divorce, but rather irreconcilable differences, or a fault divorce, which must prove grounds such as adultery, abandonment or extreme cruelty.
Divorce can be contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce means that both parties are in agreement with the terms of divorce. A contested divorce is expensive, lengthy and stressful, as one party does not agree and fights the divorce and its terms.
Prior to divorce, parents must complete the Child Impact Seminar and file a parenting plan that details custody, visitation and how the child’s welfare will be handled post-divorce. Custody can be shared, as in joint custody, or can be sole custody. Custody is usually shared equally. Legal custody refers to legal decisions that are made in the child’s best interests. Physical custody denotes where the child legally dwells. Child support may be granted if needed.
You must first determine jurisdiction for your divorce. In New Hampshire, you must be a resident of the state for one year, at least, before filing. The process starts with filing divorce papers in court and responding to divorce papers once filed. Discovery is next. The Financial Affidavit, a written disclosure of personal financial details, is given and received. The custody and parenting plan will be submitted if appropriate. There is no-cooling off period in this state before a divorce may proceed or be granted.
Pendente Lite Orders
During the divorce but before the trial, your lawyer may need to file pendente lite orders. These are temporary orders, which help decide on issues that frequently come up prior to the divorce itself. Orders like protective orders, visitation schedules, bill responsibilities and other issues can be handled with these temporary court orders.
The divorce process results in a legal agreement called a final decree. Within the decree, the divorce issues are resolved and signed by the judge. New Hampshire is not a community property state but an equitable distribution state. Property is divided equitably but not necessarily 50/50, and all debt and property are considered marital property.
Alimony is determined separately. Alimony may be awarded based on reasonable needs. Once the divorce details have been agreed to and the court has signed off on the agreement, the agreement is filed and becomes law.
Please note that no two divorces are the same, and at best, they are all complicated. State laws—especially for court orders—support and custody change constantly. Speak with an attorney if you need help handling the process.