Parental rights and responsibilities (formerly known as “custody”) encompass a range of important issues for divorcing parents. Although the couple cannot agree on many things, ensuring their child has a safe and happy future is often a common goal.
Under New Hampshire Domestic Relations laws, the State Legislature has recognized that children do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful role in their children's lives. Because of this, the policy behind the laws governing parental rights and responsibility is to encourage both parents to have frequent and continuing contact with their children.
NH Parental Rights Law
Moreover, the laws encourage parents to share in all of the rights and responsibilities of the children and allow parents and courts wide discretion in devising a parenting plan.
As you can see, the parenting plan encompasses many of the issues surrounding the child, such as the child's residence, the parenting time schedule (formerly known as visitation), and the school district where the child will attend.
The law encourages parents to draft their own parenting plan without the assistance of counsel or a mediator. There are cases, however, where the parties cannot reach an agreement. When this occurs, parents have a few different options.
Collaborative Divorce Option in New Hampshire
If parents choose to handle their case collaboratively, the issue of devising a parenting plan would be discussed over a series of confidential meetings. Both parents would have the advice of their certified collaborative lawyers; however,the parents would be encouraged to speak for themselves. This process provides the parents with a safe and respectful environment to decide on a parenting plan that may work best for them and their children.
Using the Courts to Determine Parental Rights
If the parents choose to use the court system instead of the collaborative process, the New Hampshire Courts have mandated that parents attend a Child Impact Seminar in any proceeding that involves a determination on parental rights and responsibilities. After the seminar, the parties would be required to go through mediation (absent specific circumstances, such as spousal abuse). If mediation was unsuccessful, the parties could then bring the issues before a judge and the Court would decide the parental rights and responsibilities and issue a decree on a Parenting Petition.