Parents' Residential Responsibilities and Parenting Time (Formerly Custody and Visitation) in a New Hampshire Divorce
Where the children will live and when they will spend time with each parent?
New Hampshire no longer uses the terms "custody" and "visitation" which are thought to focus on the idea of parents' rights over their children rather than the preferred method of examining the best interests of the children in determining how children's living arrangements and time spent with each parent would be determined. The new system under New Hampshire's Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, fosters parents working together to find an arrangement that serves the best interests of the children, rather than "fighting" with each other and one parent "winning" and the other "losing."
This Act encourages parents to set their differences aside to work out a shared residential schedule that will accommodate the needs and schedules of both parents and their children. To begin with, both parents are required under the Act to attend a 4-hour seminar on understanding and minimizing the negative effects of divorce on their minor children. Often, parents do come to a fair agreement on these issues and the specifics of their agreement are then included in the written parenting plan, which is approved and enforced by the court. (See If circumstances later change, requiring a revision of the court orders in place, the parties have the option of renegotiating their arrangement and returning to court for approval of changes and a new order to be put in place.
While it may at first seem unlikely that a divorcing couple would be able to work together to come to agreements, education efforts support couples in making the best decisions possible for the sake of their children, rather than focusing their attention on their own disagreements with their spouse, which brought them to the point of divorce. This process is constructive and is becoming popular in a growing number of states.
Which Parent will have residential responsibility?
The best interests of the child are paramount in determining where that child will live. Parents should be cautioned not to focus on and argue why they "deserve" to have the child live with them because the court will not see it this way. Remember that no matter how justified you feel in having your child live with you, the court is concerned ONLY with what is best for your child. To illustrate, in New Hampshire, courts consider the following factors when making a decision regarding where a child will live:
Today, it is considered counterproductive for courts to do all of the decision making in custody and visitation matters and then just hope everything works out between parents and children. Parents are in the best position to understand the needs of their children and to formulate a workable plan for the children's sake, putting aside how they now feel about each other as they proceed. Both parents love their children and the children depend on them to develop a plan that works for their situation. Parents attend a seminar to assist them with thinking about the best interests of their child. Ideally, they work together to submit a Parenting Plan to the court. (See NH Divorce Requirements for an outline of a Parenting Plan or for a form, go to http://www.courts.state.nh.us/forms/nhjb-2064-fs.pdf ) In cases of abuse or neglect or failure to cooperate, one parent may have to propose a Parenting Plan to the court.
The parenting plan sets forth agreements involving: