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New Hampshire Child Custody
Child Custody in New Hampshire

According to New Hampshire Statutes - Chapters: 461-A:6, "the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child factors."

In New Hampshire, the court decides the best interests of the child. New Hampshire child custody laws protect the child and make sure that his or her needs are met. The court encourages divorcing parents to cooperate in writing their parenting plan. The court intervenes in issues of child custody, support, and visitation rights when parents cannot agree. It considers all relevant information and gives both parents fair treatment.

Either sole or joint custody is awarded to parent(s). The term legal custody refers to a parent's active involvement in the decision-making aspects of the upbringing of the child. New Hampshire Statute 461-A:5 instructs state judges that "except as provided in Paragraph III [which "refers to abuse and neglect where the decisions of such a parent are clearly not in the best interest of the child"], in the making of any order relative to decision-making responsibility, there shall be a presumption, affecting the burden of proof, that joint decision-making responsibility is in the best interest of minor children."

By comparison, physical custody tends to go to the parent who was the primary caretaker of the child during the marriage and this parent is referred to as the primary physical custodian. New Hampshire Statute 461-A:20 defines the custodial parent as "a parent with 50 percent or more of the residential responsibility" and the non-custodial parent as "a parent with less than 50 percent of the residential responsibility." Under these guidelines, the non-custodial parent could still have his or her child three nights a week.

As mandated by child custody laws, the court awards child custody based on the best interests of the child. Custody is not granted based solely on the financial capacity of the parent, the parent's gender, or the child's gender.

In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court evaluates:

  • the child's wishes or preferences as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims;
  • the child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and other members of the family;
  • the child's ability to make adjustment to his or her school, home, and community;
  • the parents' ability to nurture, care, love, and guide the child;
  • the parents' ability to provide for the child's basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, religious training, and secure environment;
  • the parents' ability and willingness to allow the child to foster a constructive relationship and continuing contact with the other parent;
  • the nature of parent-child relationship;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • any other pertinent facts that the court deems relevant such as any findings or recommendations of a neutral mediator.

According to New Hampshire Statutes - Chapters: 461-A:6, if the court believes a minor has sound judgment, it may give substantial weight to his or her preference in allocating parental rights and responsibilities. Under these circumstances, the court also gives due consideration to other factors which may have affected the minor child's preference, including undesirable or improper influences.

Joint Custody Preference

New Hampshire law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. Under child custody laws in New Hampshire, joint legal custody, wherein both parents share joint responsibility for all parental rights and decisions, is deemed beneficial for the child. This type of custody promotes continuing relationship between the child and the parents after divorce. However, joint custody may not always be awarded if the child's welfare is at risk with of the parents.

The court shall not apply a preference for one parent over the other because of the sex of the child, the sex of a parent, or the financial resources of a parent.

If a New Hampshire judge decides against joint legal custody, he must include his reasons for doing so in any order he issues.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.


The New Hampshire courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy. However, New Hampshire considers that in the absence of abuse or neglect, every parent has the right to spend quality time with his or her child.

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