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New Hampshire Legal Separation
Legal Separation in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, unlike many jurisdictions, a legal separation, also called a limited divorce, allows spouses to live apart permanently. Some jurisdictions limit the duration of a legal separation that require divorce or reconciliation after a period of time. No such restriction exists in New Hampshire. A couple can remain in a state of legal separation or limited divorce indefinitely.

In New Hampshire a legal separation takes as much time, effort, and money as a divorce. In a separation, the spouses remain married and may not marry someone else; the wife also may not retake her maiden name.

People may choose a legal separation over a divorce even though legal separation and divorce are very much alike. For some people there are religious reasons not to divorce; others may not be ready to take that final step of divorce. There are also people who feel there is a social stigma to divorce, or who want to remain legally married for their children's sake.

When a couple with minor children files for a legal separation in New Hampshire the procedure can be very involved. In a legal separation, the division of parenting is decided just as in a divorce. This means the parents must attend a court sponsored four-hour seminar on the effects of divorce or separation on children, and they must then show the court a certificate of attendance.

Sometimes a legally separated couple finds that their relationship improves and they decide to live together again. The couple can resume marital relations at any time without any type of paperwork or legal notice. Once they have resumed marital relations, all the decrees and orders pertaining to the legal separation in New Hampshire are voided, with the exception of decrees affecting the division of property.

People with religious beliefs that prohibit or discourage divorce, and people who hope for a reconciliation may opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


In New Hampshire, the plaintiff files for a legal separation just as in a divorce. The spouse who files for a legal separation must have been a resident of New Hampshire for at least a year, or the cause for the legal separation arose in the state and at least one of the spouses must be living in the state when the paperwork is filed. This legal separation paperwork is often used to start the actual divorce proceedings later on.


The grounds for a legal separation in New Hampshire are the same as for divorce, including irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage, along with other general grounds, which include impotence, extreme cruelty, imprisonment of one spouse for more than one year, when either spouse has treated the other in such a way as to seriously injure their health, desertion for up to 2 years, habitual drinking for 2 years, or refusal of one spouse to cohabit with the other for 6 months.


The filing spouse must have lived in New Hampshire for one year or the cause of the action must have started ion New Hampshire and one of the spouses must live in New Hampshire when the legal separation is filed.


The separation papers must be served on the respondent.

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