How to get divorced in New Hampshire

Tags: Online Divorce, New Hampshire

Image: George Carmichael / iStock

By Valerie Keene

Published Jul 27, 2022

Requirements for divorce

To file for divorce in New Hampshire one of the conditions mentioned below must be met:

Both spouses must live in New Hampshire.

The petitioner spouse should have lived in New Hampshire for 1 year.

The petitioner spouse lives in the state and the respondent spouse can be served in New Hampshire.

Typically, an uncontested divorce takes around 1-3 months for completion in New Hampshire; however, the duration of the proceedings depends on whether there are children involved. New Hampshire does not have a mandatory waiting period before the divorce is finalized.

Grounds for divorce

New Hampshire recognizes “no-fault” grounds, as well as, 10 “fault-based” grounds for divorce.

No-Fault Grounds

The “no-fault” ground for divorce in New Hampshire is “irreconcilable differences between your spouse and you which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage”.

Fault-Based Grounds

In some cases, fault-based grounds can also be used as a basis for uncontested divorce. However, you should ensure that your spouse is prepared to admit the misconduct.

In New Hampshire, there are 10 fault-based grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery

  • Impotence

  • Cruelty

  • Mental abuse

  • Incarceration for over 1 year

  • Physical abuse or reasonable apprehension of physical threat

  • Habitual drunkenness for 2 years

  • Living separately and apart for 2 years (Learn more about legal separation)

  • For the wife, desertion of the husband without support for 2 years

  • Joining a religious society or sect which believes that the relation of both spouses is unlawful and one spouse has refused to cohabit with the other for 6 months.

Step 1: Starting your New Hampshire divorce

Preparing the Documents

For divorce in New Hampshire, the following documents must be completed by the petitioner spouse. Here are some of the important documents, although you may need to fill additional forms, depending on your situation.

Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce

  • Petition for Divorce: This is when one spouse files for divorce alone.

  • Joint Petition for Divorce: If both spouses agree to the divorce, then this is filed.

  • Personal Data Sheet: Identifies both spouses, their residential addresses, children and action.

  • Notice to Respondent and an Appearance Form: This gives the respondent around 15 days within which he/she must enter his/her appearance.

  • Financial Affidavit: Has the information about the assets and debts and income and expenses of each spouse.

  • Final Decree on Petition for Divorce, Legal Separation or Civil Union Dissolution: This is a final order that has the terms and conditions of the divorce action.

  • Certificate of Divorce: This form helps the state to keep track of the divorces.

  • Parenting Plan: Defines the terms and conditions of child custody, visitation, parenting time, etc.

  • Joint Parenting Plan: When both spouses seek to jointly establish parental responsibilities and rights, this form is used.

  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet: Used to calculate the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent.

  • Uniform Support Order: Stipulates the child support and/or alimony that the obligor spouse pays as per the divorce terms and conditions and it also has the details of the obligation for medical support of each spouse.

  • Affidavit of Impossibility: This form states that it is impossible to obtain the Financial Affidavit of the respondent.

  • Affidavit of Non-Cohabitation: States that both spouses are living apart and have not cohabited.

Filing Your Forms

The fill-in form is available on the New Hampshire court website. Once the form is completed by you, you must sign it before the justice of peace or a notary. You can then mail the documents or bring the original petition along with 2 copies, your personal data sheet and the filing fee to the court.

You can file your divorce papers in your local family court. The list of family courts and the towns which each court covers are available on the court website. The website also has the details of the court fees. You can file your divorce petition in the court which covers the town where either your spouse or you live.

Step 2: Notifying your spouse

Service is the manner in which the respondent is given the copy of the divorce petition. If your spouse and you file a Joint Petition, then there is no need to serve your spouse.

When an individual petition is received by the court, the clerk sends a letter to the respondent informing him/her that the divorce has been filed and that the copy of the divorce petition can be picked up by the respondent from the court. If the respondent doesn’t pick up the divorce petition from the court, then 2 copies of the divorce papers that have been stamped are sent by the court clerk to the petitioner.

One copy is labeled as the “return copy” and the other is the “service copy” and there are 2 ways in which the respondent can be served.

You can mail the service copy to your spouse:

  • You can send it by certified mail with return receipt requested and

  • You can deliver by restricted delivery so that only your spouse can sign.

Hire the county sheriff where your spouse lives or works:

  • Contact the civil process department of the sheriff.

  • Give the home or work address of your spouse to the sheriff.

  • Inform that the sheriff can leave the service copy at the home address or it can be given to your spouse directly at the respondent’s workplace.

If you serve the papers via certified mail, when you receive the return receipt, it must be filed with the court. And, if you use the services of the sheriff, he/she will mail the return copy to you, which includes a statement that the petition was served to the respondent. These must be filed with the court at the earliest.

Step 3: Contested or uncontested?

Contested Divorce (High Costs)

If both spouses cannot arrive at an agreement regarding many or even one issue, then your case will be contested and will go into litigation.

This involves going before a judge and having him/her decide the various terms and conditions of the divorce. a contested divorce is not only very lengthy but also quite expensive. If you can avoid this, its would be in best of your best interest to do so.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Costs)

In New Hampshire, you can file for divorce and then serve the divorce forms to your spouse or you can both file the divorce forms as a joint petition. If your spouse and you agree on all the issues such as property and debt division, child custody and support, alimony, etc., then the divorce is an uncontested one.

However, if you don’t agree on any of the issues, you can still file the divorce as co-petitioners and depend on the judge to decide on the disputed issues. You can save time by filing a Joint Petition as in this case there is no requirement to give the respondent spouse 10 days to submit his/her Answer to the court.

Step 4: DIY or get a lawyer?

DIY divorce Papers (Slower & Least Costly)

The biggest issue with attempting to figure out what paperwork you need for your situation is your time and frustration. If you have the time and are okay with figuring out the paperwork, this is definitely the best way to file an uncontested divorce. The most important condition for a DIY divorce is that your spouse and you should be able to negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Also, if there are no children and not many assets involved, then things become much simpler.

If you plan to represent yourself, then you can get guidance via New Hampshire’s website which is very user-friendly. The website provides simple and easy-to-understand instructions and fill-in forms that can help you from start to finish. There is also plenty of useful information available online to help you sort out the divorce rules on your own.

Online Divorce Services (Fastest & Inexpensive)

The fastest (few hours) way to complete your divorce papers is to use an online divorce service. These online services are priced from $145 to as much as $2500 depending on how much help you need. All around, the best solution on the market is 3StepDivorce but you can also read the reviews of other online providers here.

These online divorce paper services will ask you questions regarding your situation and based on your response, will fill out the necessary paperwork that you need in-order to file for divorce. Once your done answering all the questions, you will be able to download your paperwork right away with some providers. Additionally, these providers will look over your paperwork and provide you with the necessary tools and next steps to help make the process easier.

Attorney Divorce Trial (Longer & Expensive)

If you and your spouse are unable to sit at the same table, or mutually agree to end the marriage and work together, its best for both of you to get a lawyer.

Although in the case of an uncontested divorce in New Hampshire, there is no mandatory final hearing, you can’t really get a divorce without even one appearance in the court because you will need to file your divorce petition. However, in the case of a contested divorce where your spouse and you do not agree on some of all the terms and conditions of your divorce, your case will necessarily go to trial.

Your case will be heard by a judge, who will then resolve the disputed issues after going through all the evidence, testimonies and witnesses presented by your spouse and you. The judge will only rule based on what the court deems to be fair for both parties involved and not what you or your spouse may consider as fair.

Step 5: The big issues

New Hampshire property division

According to the divorce law of New Hampshire, all property is considered as marital property and will be divided equally, unless the court decides otherwise after considering the factors mentioned below:

  • The length of the marriage.

  • Age, health, economic and social status, vocational skills, occupation, employability, sources and amount of income, separate property, liabilities and needs of each spouse.

  • Opportunity of each spouse to acquire income and capital assets in the future.

  • Ability of the custodial spouse to take up gainful employment without interfering with the interests of the minor children of the couple.

  • Need of the custodial spouse to occupy the marital home or household effects.

  • Actions of each spouse during their marriage that contributed to the growth or decrease in value of the property which is owned by both or either spouse.

  • Any disparity between the spouses with regard to their contributions to their marriage and also to the care of the home and children.

  • Any spouse’s contribution to educate or develop the employability or career of the other spouse and any interruption of a spouse’s career or educational opportunities for the benefit of the career of the other spouse or benefit of the couple’s marriage or children.

  • Any expectation of retirement or pension rights that were acquired during or before the marriage.

  • Tax consequences of each spouse.

  • Value of any property that has been allocated by a legal prenuptial contract.

  • Fault of either spouse in the breakdown of the marriage that caused significant mental or physical pain and suffering or caused a significant loss to the injured party or the marital estate.

  • The value of any property that was acquired before marriage or in exchange for such property and any property which was acquired by insurance or gift.

  • Any other relevant factor.

Alimony / Spousal Support

The court may award alimony to a spouse after taking into consideration the lifestyle that was maintained during the marriage if:

  • The spouse seeking alimony does not have sufficient income or property in order to meet his/her reasonable needs.

  • The spouse from whom the alimony is sought has the ability to meet his/her own reasonable needs when paying alimony to the other spouse.

  • The spouse seeking alimony is not able to support himself/herself via appropriate employment or he/she has parental responsibilities for a child which makes it difficult for the spouse not to seek employment outside the home.

The court determines the duration and amount of alimony after it considers the following factors:

  • Duration of the marriage.

  • Age, health, economic and social status and occupation of each spouse.

  • Sources and amount of income and property awarded to each spouse.

  • Vocational skills, estate, liabilities and employability of each spouse.

  • Needs of each spouse.

  • The opportunity of each spouse for the future acquisition of income and assets.

  • Each party’s spouse.

  • Tax consequences of each spouse.

Each spouse’s contribution to acquiring, preserving or increasing the value of their estates and non-economic contribution of each spouse to the family unit.

Child Custody & Support Laws

The court decides child custody based on the following factors:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent and ability of each parent to provide the child affection, love and guidance.

  • Ability of each parent to ensure that the child receives sufficient food, shelter, medical care, clothing and a safe environment.

  • Developmental needs of the child and ability of each parent to meet them.

  • Adjustment of the child to the home, community and school and the effect of any change.

  • Each parent’s support for the relationship of the child and the frequent contact with the other parent including whether the contact will harm either the child or the parent.

  • Relationship of the child with any other person who can affect the child significantly.

  • Ability of both parents to cooperate, communicate and make joint decisions regarding the child.

  • Evidence of abuse and impact of it on the child and the relationship between the abusing parent and the child.

  • If a spouse is incarcerated, reason and length of incarceration and any issues arising due to the incarceration.

  • Child’s wishes if the child is of adequate maturity (but after considering any improper or undesirable influences on the child).

  • Any other relevant factors.

The child support is determined by referring to the Child Support Guidelines of New Hampshire.

Step 6: Finalizing your divorce

If you have minor children with your spouse, then the court requires both your spouse and you to attend the “first appearance” where the judge will discuss the court mediation program. The couple can sign up for mediation; however, if either spouse does not want mediation, then the court clerk will schedule a meeting with the case manager. The case manager is an employee of the court who guides self-representing couples filing for divorce through the process.

If you do not have minor children and either your spouse or you are self-represented, there will still be a case manager who is assigned to you and you also have the option of attending the court mediation program.

If your spouse and you have children, after you file your joint petition, both your spouse and you must attend a 4-hour seminar about how the divorce can affect your children. Once you complete the program and receive the certificate of completion, you must show the same to the court. The seminar must be completed before the final hearing.

If you file a joint petition and there is no agreement between your spouse and you on all the issues, then you can request the court for a temporary hearing. At the temporary hearing, the judge will pass an order about the contested issues after hearing both sides.

However, if your spouse and you have a complete agreement on all the terms and conditions of the divorce, you can request the date for a final hearing. Before the hearing, you must write, sign and file your agreement. At least one spouse must be present for the hearing. The judge will ask some questions and if he/she finds your agreement to be fair, the judge will sign the divorce decree which will finalize your divorce.