Divorce Laws in New Hampshire

Divorce Laws in new hampshire

Divorce laws will govern many essential aspects of your case in New Hampshire.  It’s critical to understand how these laws work so you can best protect your interests.

If you’re uncomfortable dealing with legal issues or you run into conflicts in your divorce, you can save a lot of time and worry by retaining an attorney to assist you.

Here are some of the common legal issues and divorce laws you’ll encounter when divorcing in New Hampshire.

What are the Basic Laws Regarding Divorce in New Hampshire?

You can seek either a no-fault or fault-based divorce in New Hampshire.  Most people choose the no-fault option because it is easier and quicker to resolve.  However, you can cite specific grounds such as adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, abandonment and other reasons for your divorce.

Before you can divorce, you must meet residency requirements.  At least one spouse must have lived in New Hampshire for a minimum of one year prior to filing.

Also, as long as you meet specific requirements, legal separation and annulments are permitted in some cases.

Although you can’t file for a divorce online, if you and your spouse agreement, you can make initial divorce paperwork to the appropriate courthouse to start your case.

After you have completed service of paperwork on your spouse, there is a Mandatory Initial Self Disclosure period of not more than 45 days where both spouses are required to exchange important information with the other party.  This typically involves financial matters so that other related issues can be worked out in an equitable manner.

Bifurcated divorces are also allowed in some instances.  This type of action breaks the divorce into two separate actions, allowing a majority of the issues to be settled immediately.

Learn: Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Pros and Cons

How is the Division of Property Handled in New Hampshire?

division of property handled

New Hampshire is an equitable division state.  This means marital property is divided in a fair and equitable way, but not necessarily with a 50/50 split.

Marital property is defined as assets that were acquired or is a direct result of the labor and investments of the parties during the marriage.  Non-marital property is that which was acquired before a marriage by one spouse, or after the date of separation.

According to New Hampshire laws, property division is determined by several factors, including:

  • the age, health, social or economic status, occupation, vocational skills, employability, separate property, amount and sources of income, needs and liabilities of each party
  • the opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income
  • the ability of the custodial parent, if any, to engage in gainful employment without substantially interfering with the interests of any minor children in his or her custody
  • the need of the custodial parent, if any, to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects
  • the actions of either party during the marriage which contributed to the growth or diminution in value of property owned by either or both of the parties
  • whether there’s a significant disparity between the parties in relation to contributions to the marriage, including contributions to the care and education of the children and the care and management of the home
  • any direct or indirect contribution made by one party to help educate or develop the career or employability of the other party and any interruption of either party’s education or personal career opportunities for the benefit of the other’s career or for the benefit of the parties’ marriage or children
  • the expectation of pension or retirement rights acquired prior to or during the marriage
  • the tax consequences for each party
  • the value of property that is allocated by a valid prenuptial contract made in good faith by the parties
  • the fault of either party, if it caused the breakdown of the marriage, and also caused substantial physical or mental pain and suffering or resulted in substantial economic loss to the marital estate or the injured party
  • the value of any property acquired prior to the marriage and property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage
  • the value of any property acquired by gift or inheritance
  • any other factor the court deems relevant

Economic misconduct means one spouse dissipated the marital assets, perhaps by gambling or reckless behavior.  Similarly, if a spouse commits adultery, abandonment or negligence, that may impact a division as well.

A prenuptial agreement can take precedence over state law when property division agreements are built into the agreement.

How do Retirement Plans and Pensions get Divided in a New Hampshire Divorce?

Retirement Plans and Pensions

Pensions and 401k plans that are earned during a marriage are considered marital property and must be divided equally.  If one spouse earned pension assets before marriage, then those assets may be considered as separate and not subject to division.

Any retirement assets that were earned before marriage are considered separate assets and not subject to division.

Determining an exact value on retirement accounts can be complicated and involve large amounts of money.  In many cases, you may need to retain an accountant, pension valuator, actuary, business appraiser, or a certified divorce financial analyst to assist you in determining an accurate value.

After the value has been determined for each account, the accounts must be divided.  In some cases, you can negotiate to keep the full retirement amount in exchange for giving up something else, such as your share of the family house.

After the divorce has taken place and an agreed-upon split has been negotiated, an attorney or a firm that specializes in splitting pension accounts will need to prepare a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).  

The QDRO defines how the retirement assets will be split and becomes a legal and binding document after review and approval by the plan administrator and the court

Once it has been approved, the order makes a spouse an alternate payee, and the account is divided according to the instructions in the QDRO.

If you’re interested in getting a QDRO online, we’ve got you covered. QDRO Counsel is an online service that specializes in drafting QDROs and ensures that all of your information is accounted for.

Check Out QDRO Counsel!

How is the division of bank accounts handled?

Any bank accounts with assets that were acquired during the course of the marriage in New Hampshire are marital property and must be split equitably.

How are debts divided?


Debts are treated the same way as in New Hampshire.  If you acquired debt together during the course of the marriage, then you are both responsible.

Any debt associated with property such as an auto loan or mortgage will be assigned to the spouse who is awarded the property.

If one spouse is assigned a joint debt and fails to pay, it will damage the credit of the other spouse.

In some cases with a fault-based divorce, it may be possible to prove a spouse was irresponsible and make them liable for a greater share of the debt.

What Happens to Your Inheritance in a New Hampshire Divorce?

Unlike many other states, inherited funds and property are considered marital property in New Hampshire and will be subject to division.

How is Alimony Decided in a New Hampshire Divorce?


Alimony can be awarded in a lump sum, periodic, or both in New Hampshire.  Periodic alimony is usually made monthly for a set amount of time, or in some cases it can be permanent until a spouse dies or the supported spouse gets remarried.

Spouses have the option of petitioning for alimony up to five years after a divorce has been finalized.  There is no formula for alimony.  It is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Court uses several factors to determine alimony.  They include:

  • length of the marriage
  • age, health, social or economic status of the spouses
  • each spouse’s occupation
  • amounts and sources of income of each spouse
  • property each spouse receives in the divorce
  • jobs skills and chance to be employed for each spouse
  • debts for each spouse
  • needs for each spouse
  • chance for each spouse to get assets and income in the future
  • each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-financial
  • fault by either spouse that causes the divorce

If financial circumstances change, courts also have the discretion to change alimony awards.

How is Child Support Calculated During a New Hampshire Divorce?

Child Support

In New Hampshire, child support is calculated a bit differently than in other states.

No automatic parenting time credit is used to reduce a child support amount.  Instead, the non-residential parent’s gross income is determined and then allowable deductions are made.

Deductions can include health insurance for the children or daycare expenses, among others.  The net income is then used in the state’s child support formula.

Per statute, that formula is as follows:

  • One child = 25% of the non-residential parent’s monthly income
  • Two children = 33% of the non-residential parent’s monthly income
  • Three children = 40% of the non-residential parent’s monthly income
  • Four children or more = 45% of the non-residential parent’s monthly income

Accurate parenting time percentages are still important because New Hampshire law allows for certain exceptions to be made in the child support amount if you can show you qualify for special consideration.

State-specific child support guidelines are found in the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated; Chapter 458.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support

How is Child Custody Determined in a Divorce in New Hampshire?

Child Custody

Child custody is always determined by the best interests of the child.  Several factors help to decide this issue.  Under New Hampshire statutes, those factors include:

  • The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance
  • The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment
  • The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet them, both in the present and in the future
  • The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s school and community and the potential effect of any change
  • The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
  • The support of each parent for the child’s contact with the other parent as shown by allowing and promoting such contact, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent
  • The support of each parent for the child’s relationship with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent
  • The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child
  • The ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make joint decisions concerning the children, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent
  • Any evidence of abuse and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent
  • If a parent is incarcerated, the reason for and the length of the incarceration, and any unique issues that arise as a result of incarceration
  • Any other additional factors the court deems relevant

In general, New Hampshire law assumes that children do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in their lives.  As such, courts try to arrange for frequent contact with both parents. Parents are expected to devise a parenting plan that meets this goal.

If this arrangement is not considered good for the child, then one parent may be given a larger share of the rights and responsibilities of raising the child.  This might be caused by instances of domestic abuse, substance abuse, neglect or other similar challenges.

Struggling with co-parenting? Try using Our Family Wizard, an app that specializes in communication between separated parents and assists with scheduling, delegation and much more. Learn more about Our Family Wizard>>

Parents and the courts need to decide both physical custody and legal custody in a divorce case.

Physical custody determines which parent the child will primarily live with after a divorce.  Legal custody grants decision-making power over important issues after a divorce. Often, joint physical and legal custody are awarded.

The state also recognizes grandparent visitation rights as part of custody decisions.

What role does substance abuse play in determining child custody?

The safety, needs and protection of children are always the primary concern for the courts in New Hampshire.

Substance abuse can impact legal rights when it comes to visitation, custody and parental rights.   This can result in limiting or completely denying access to children in serious cases.

Before any custody rights can be granted, a court may require proof of substance abuse treatment and demonstrated progress toward sobriety.

What role does domestic violence play in a New Hampshire divorce?

domestic violence

Domestic violence is also a major concern for the courts and law enforcement in a divorce.

Above all else, if you or any family members are the victims of domestic violence, you must leave your spouse and seek immediate help from law enforcement and social services agencies.

You may be the victim of verbal or physical abuse, emotional or economic abuse, sexual assault, intimidation, threats, stalking, or criminal trespassing, or damage to property.  To protect you, it’s possible to seek a restraining order that will limit interaction with your spouse while your divorce moves forward.

Domestic violence is one of the grounds for divorce in New Hampshire, and when you can prove it exists, you will strengthen your case in other related areas.

A court will also be reluctant to grant any kind of child custody or visitation privileges to a spouse who has demonstrated this kind of behavior.

New Hampshire Divorce FAQs

How is adultery treated in New Hampshire divorce laws?


Adultery is also one of the grounds that can be used in a fault-based divorce in New Hampshire.  It can have an impact on whether or not alimony is awarded, but it is not automatic.

To be eligible when claiming adultery in a fault-based divorce, a spouse must show:

  • the adultery must be the cause of the divorce
  • the adultery must cause substantial mental or physical suffering to the faithful spouse
  • the adultery must cause significant financial harm to the faithful spouse or the couple’s estate

A petitioner must produce enough evidence to prove adultery has taken place.  This can include photos, witness testimony, phone and credit card records, and other similar information that indicates significant amounts of money were spent outside of the marriage.

In some cases, a finding of adultery can affect how a court divides assets, often siding with the faithful spouse and awarding them a larger share.

Adultery usually doesn’t affect child custody or visitation unless it can be shown that the spouse’s affair has had a negative impact on the children.

What is a bifurcation of marital status, and how does it work?

Judges may reluctantly grant a bifurcated divorce in New Hampshire, but it is rare.

A bifurcated divorce divides a case into two separate actions.  This may be done when most issues are resolved or there is some compelling reason to reach a partial split while giving time for other issues to be resolved.

Some New Hampshire couples may seek a bifurcated divorce because they want to get married again immediately, or you may have business partners who don’t want marital property tied up for any longer than is necessary.

Judges are reluctant to go this route because it creates judicial inefficiencies and there is less incentive to finalize a case.

What are the disclosure obligations in a New Hampshire divorce?

disclosure obligations

So that an equitable division of property can take place in New Hampshire, both spouses are required to disclose all assets.  They must file forms with the court within 45 days of the filing of the initial petition.

In some cases, a spouse may try to hide assets.  If they are discovered doing this, there can be severe penalties assessed by the court.

What happens with health insurance during and after divorce?

health insurance

In New Hampshire, a former spouse can enjoy continued coverage on a subscriber employee’s group health insurance for up to three years after a final decree of divorce. This applies to both medical and dental coverage.

Coverage must continue for three years or until the death of the covered employee, the remarriage of either the covered employee or the former spouse, or if the final decree provides for an earlier termination of benefits.

Also, under New Hampshire’s continuing coverage statute, and unlike COBRA, insurers are required to make the health insurance available without additional premiums and are required to contribute to the former spouse’s coverage as if the divorce had not occurred.

Are there any special considerations for military divorces in New Hampshire?

military divorces

In New Hampshire, you can file for divorce when one spouse is in the military, and either the spouse or the active-duty servicemember must live in or be stationed in the state as well.

The grounds for a military divorce in the state are the same as they are for a civilian divorce.  You can cite either a no-fault or fault-based reason when you file.

Several laws are the same for both civilian and military divorces.  But there are some notable differences through protections offered under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act.  For example, a divorce can be postponed until up to 60 days following active duty.

Child custody and visitation issues follow the same general New Hampshire laws as civilian cases but can be more complicated due to relocation or deployment orders.

Military servicemembers are also afforded protections under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982.  This act pertains to how assets and pensions are treated and calculated in a divorce.

Under USFSPA, the military members’ retirement can’t be disbursed to the spouse unless a couple has been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

Combined spousal support and child support can’t exceed 60% of a service member’s pay and allowances.  Otherwise, normal rules and regulations regarding these financial issues are dictated by state laws.

What if my spouse does not respond to divorce papers? What happens in a default divorce in New Hampshire?

After you file for divorce and serve your spouse with papers, if your spouse does not respond to the complaint in a timely manner, the petitioner can request a default in writing.

A hearing will be held no less than 30 days from that request.  Before a default hearing can take place, a petitioner must also prove he or she has filed the following with the court:

  • a military affidavit
  • vital statistics form
  • non-cohabitation affidavit
  • affidavit of impossibility
  • uniform support order
  • child support guideline worksheet if child support is to be ordered
  • a proposed decree
  • a parenting plan
  • a current financial affidavit

The petitioner must also provide a certificate that the previously listed documents have been forwarded to the other party.

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