Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which consists of both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute, the court may grant joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Moreover, child custody cases in New Hampshire can be either contested and resolved by court order or uncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents.
A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following items:
- Where the child lives (physical custody); and
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)?
Furthermore, if the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or through a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a New Hampshire judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is based on the best interests of the child.
In New Hampshire, several factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who receives child custody. New Hampshire has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may contain factors such as the child’s age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, a judge can consider other factors at their discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Additionally, judges in New Hampshire are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute. The Courts in New Hampshire do not have a presumption in favor of joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will consider the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
In New Hampshire, the court does consider the child’s reasonable wishes when determining which parent receives custody. The judge may take into account the child’s age, maturity, and judgment into consideration when considering the child’s custody preference.
What Types of Parental Rights and Responsibilities Exist?
When deciding custody matters, the judge will determine how to divide the parental rights and responsibilities that each parent will have regarding the child.
The judge can award either parent the following:
- Decision-making responsibility, which is the responsibility to make decisions for specific issues, or it could apply to all decisions for the child; and
- Residential responsibility is a parent’s responsibility to provide a home for the child.
The judge is supposed to assume that joint decision-making responsibility is in the best interest of minor children in either of the following situations:
- Both parents agree to joint decision-making responsibility; and
- Either parent requests for joint decision-making responsibility and in the judge’s discretion, the judge believes that it is appropriate.
However, if the judge determines that abuse has happened, the judge must consider such abuse as being harmful to the child and must consider the abuse as evidence in determining whether joint decision-making responsibility is appropriate. The judge is supposed to make an order that best protects the child, the abused parent, or both.
As mandated by child custody laws, the court grants child custody depending 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.
The determining parental rights and responsibilities that the court evaluates include:
- The child’s wishes or preferences as to custody provided that they are mature enough to make such claims;
- The child’s relationship with their parents, siblings, and other members of the family;
- The child’s ability to adjust to their school, home, and community;
- The parent’s ability to nurture, care, love, and guide the child;
- The parent’s ability to provide for the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, religious training, and a secure environment;
- The parent’s ability and willingness to permit the child to foster a constructive relationship and continuing contact with the other parent;
- The nature of the parent-child relationship;
- Any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
- Any other pertinent facts that the court finds relevant such as any findings or recommendations of a neutral mediator.
According to New Hampshire Statutes, if the court believes a minor has sound judgment, it may provide substantial weight to their preference in allocating parental rights and responsibilities. Under these circumstances, the court allows due consideration to other factors which may have impacted the minor child’s preference, including undesirable or improper influences.
What are Parenting Plans in New Hampshire?
A Parenting Plan may be defined as a document that must be submitted to the court before any orders are made regarding the care and control of your child. A Parenting Plan will eventually become a part of the court’s order in the divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.
Preferably, the two parents cooperate to create a plan that they agree upon. If the two parents cannot agree, then each drafts their own proposed plan, and the court either approves one or crafts its own. If there is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in your case, then they will also draft a proposal.
Moreover, the parenting plan is intended to further the State of New Hampshire’s intention to foster positive family relationships, to encourage parents to work cooperatively for the benefit of their children, and to keep both parents actively involved in their child’s life.
Also, recognizing that a positive relationship between children and both parents is best for children. It is also the notion of the State and the courts, that parents will always make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, even when the parent’s interests conflict with those of the child.
As part of the process of creating a parenting plan, a New Hampshire judge will request that the parents submit a parenting plan for review. It is preferred that the parents collaborate in creating their parenting plan instead of the plan being created for them. As part of their parenting plan, parents will describe various details. These include a custody schedule and method for the child to travel between homes, a legal custody arrangement, and a plan for how future disagreements will be resolved.
New Hampshire judges are likely to approve a plan if both parents agree on it and if it fits within the best interests of the children involved. If parents are having a hard time agreeing to their parenting plan, then they will likely be asked to attend mediation as a way to work out their plan with the guidance of a neutral third party.
After a parenting plan has been settled on, the process of actually implementing and managing the plan comes into play. There are various tools to assist parents in the process. These tools include a shared calendar to keep track of parenting time and visitation schedules, a secure messaging center to document co-parent communication, information back to maintain all important family vital details, an expense and payment register to keep track of all shared parenting costs, and much more.
All of this is available to parents from anywhere with an internet connection, whether they are using the website from a computer or the mobile app on their smartphone.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you reside in the state of New Hampshire and are having issues with Child Custody. Do not hesitate to reach out to a New Hampshire child custody lawyer to assist you with the process. Your attorney can provide you with advice, guidance, and representation for your case.