New Hampshire Divorce Guide

Divorce in New Hampshire

You will need to be armed and educated about how divorces proceed in New Hampshire before you start your case. This will help you best protect your rights and understand your responsibilities so that there are no surprises along the way.

Specifically, in this guide you’ll learn about the various process options for divorce, the differences between contested and uncontested divorce, and much more.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Grounds for Divorce in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire allows for both no-fault and fault-based divorces. Once you meet residency requirements you can pursue either course of action.

The simplest way to get divorced in New Hampshire is through a no-fault divorce. You only need to cite “irreconcilable differences leading to an irremediable breakdown of the marriage” as the reason for your divorce. Most all couples pursue this type of divorce.

For a variety of reasons, some couples prefer to pursue a fault-based divorce. It’s more costly and time consuming because one spouse has to prove the other was at fault as a reason for the divorce.

The main reason people seek a fault-based divorce is to gain an advantage in the division of marital property. If fault can be proven, the innocent spouse may be entitled to a larger share of assets. Fault-based grounds are also used as a way to protect children who may be at risk of domestic violence.

There are nine fault grounds that can be claimed in New Hampshire. They include:

  • Impotency of either party.
  • Adultery of either party.
  • Extreme cruelty of either party to the other.
  • Conviction of either party, in any state or federal district, of a crime punishable with imprisonment for more than one year and actual imprisonment under such conviction.
  • When either party has so treated the other as seriously to injure health or endanger reason.
  • When either party has been absent 2 years together and has not been heard of.
  • When either party is a habitual drunkard and has been such for 2 years together.
  • When either party has joined any religious sect or society which professes to believe the relation of husband and wife unlawful and has refused to cohabit with the other for 6 months together.
  • When either party, without sufficient cause, and without the consent of the other, has abandoned and refused, for 2 years together, to cohabit with the other.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Legal Separation vs a Divorce

In some cases, couples in New Hampshire may choose to become legally separated instead of getting divorced.

Legal separation is much more than just physically separating. It is basically the same as a divorce except that you are not free to remarry. You decide issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets and debts.

Many people choose this option because they have religious beliefs that are against divorce. In some cases, people may decide they just need time apart to see if they can work out their differences. Still, others choose this option because they can keep healthcare or it may affect their immigration status.

Both parties must be in favor of filing for legal separation instead of divorce. If one spouse files for a legal separation and the other for divorce, the process will be handled as a divorce.

A couple can choose to stay legally separated for as long they want. They can also decide to get back together, file for divorce or can stay legally separated forever.

What’s the difference between annulment and divorce in New Hampshire?

An annulment is different from a divorce. A divorce ends a marriage but an annulment treats a marriage as if it never happened.

In New Hampshire, there are limited reasons and specific grounds that allow an annulment to proceed. Those grounds are:

  • Lack of consent of a parent or guardian if consent was required
  • Fraud, or lies, by you or your spouse that induced the other to marry
  • You or your spouse only married because of severe threats
  • The marriage was illegal because you and your spouse are too closely related, or
  • You or your spouse was married to someone else at the time of your marriage.

To get an annulment, you’ll need to file a Petition to Annul Marriage with the court. After your spouse is served, if your spouse agrees to the annulment, then no hearing will be required.

If your spouse contests the action, the judge will hold a hearing and allow both of you to present evidence.

If approved, your marriage is immediately considered void, as if you were never married.

What Are My Options for Getting a Divorce in New Hampshire?

Options for Getting a Divorce

If you want to get a divorce in New Hampshire, you have several options. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each before you move forward.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce

This is known as an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on all the issues in advance, you can file paperwork with the court stating this fact, and you will usually be granted a divorce in a short amount of time, the least amount of emotional stress, and the lowest possible costs. You may be able to go through the entire process without appearing in front of a judge, or appearing only briefly to answer a few questions.

Online Divorce

This is similar to a DIY divorce, except that you rely a lot more on pre-printed forms and online services or attorneys to help you complete the required paperwork. The automated approach can save a lot of money, but you need to be careful about making costly mistakes if you go this route.

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Divorce Mediation

You meet with a neutral third party who helps you work through the areas of disagreement you have, such as property division, child custody and visitation, and related issues. When you strike an agreement, you draw up a proposal and submit it to the court for approval. This is a quicker, cheaper, and less contentious route for many couples than going through a full-blown trial.

Collaborative Divorce

This is an option for couples who still have a fair amount of cooperation and trust between them. Any disagreements are resolved respectfully and amicably using attorneys who are specially trained in collaborative law. That is less costly than other forms of divorce and leaves decisions with the couple, and not a judge. If collaboration fails, you can move forward with other types of divorce, but you will need to retain a different attorney if you do.


Litigation is a traditional approach to divorce. You and your attorneys engage with your spouse and their attorneys in an attempt to negotiate a settlement before going to trial. About 95% of all litigated divorces end this way. If you can reach an agreement through a negotiated settlement or arbitration instead of a trial, then you can save some time and aggravation.


Similar to mediation, but instead of a third-party mediator, you will work with a third party, often a private judge, who will listen to both sides and then issue a binding ruling. People often choose this when there is a fair amount of conflict, but they don’t want the public exposure, cost, and attention that a full trial brings.

What is the Process of Getting a Divorce in New Hampshire?

Process of Getting a Divorce

After you meet New Hampshire state residency requirements, you can file for divorce.

The person who files for divorce is the petitioner, and the other spouse is the defendant. You will need to decide what kind of divorce you want to pursue and what method you will use.

You can choose to file a joint petition or an individual petition. Both will start the divorce process.

Once you decide on your process, you’ll need to prepare and either mail or file forms at the local courthouse. A petitioner can file in the county where he or she lives or in the county where the respondent lives.

To start your case, you’ll need to file one of the following, plus a Personal Data Sheet.

You will need to pay a filing fee which is waived in some cases.

After you file paperwork, you must officially notify your spouse of your intention to divorce them by serving them to complete proof of service. Your spouse can respond to the petition by filing an Answer

After the court receives proof that service has been completed, your case is opened and you can move forward with either trying to settle your issues or prepare for litigation. In most cases, you and your spouse will be given the opportunity to attend mediation. If either spouse refuses mediation, a case manager will be assigned to help you work through your case.

To ensure an equitable division of assets, you’ll need to exchange financial disclosure information, listing your assets, debts, expenses, income and other pertinent financial information.

To finalize your divorce, you’ll need to complete the following if you have no children:

With children, you’ll need to complete the following forms:

You can also get forms and instructions at any New Hampshire Circuit Court or get additional information here.

If you can’t reach an agreement and present a settlement to the court, then you will go to trial where a judge will hear evidence and testimony, and then rule on all of your divorce-related issues.

Can I File for Divorce Online in New Hampshire?

Divorce Online

No, but you can use an online service or a family law attorney to help you prepare forms which you’ll then mail or file in person at your local courthouse.

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Can I Mail Divorce Papers in New Hampshire?

If you and your spouse agree and want to file a joint petition, you can have your documents mailed to the appropriate court. You also have that option if you want to file an individual petition as well.

If you prefer, you can also submit the paperwork in person.

Can I Refuse or Contest a Divorce in New Hampshire?

You can refuse a petition for a divorce in New Hampshire, but you can contest the terms of the divorce after you are served with paperwork.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in New Hampshire?

How Long Does a Divorce Take

Every divorce is different, so it is impossible to say exactly how long your divorce will take. Generally, though, the more you can cooperate with your spouse, the shorter the timeframe will be. Uncontested divorces save time and aggravation as well.

If you have unresolved issues, then you will need to go through mediation or collaboration to reach agreement. This can delay finalizing your divorce by several months.

When you are in a difficult divorce with a lot of unresolved issues or low levels of trust, then you may need to go through litigation. It’s not uncommon for a divorce like this to take one or two years, and maybe even longer, depending on how complex things are between you.

What is the Waiting Period to Get a Divorce in New Hampshire?

Before you file for divorce in New Hampshire, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of one year.

After you file for divorce, you can expect to wait several weeks, depending on the court’s backlog of cases. Orders of notice will apply to you regarding the other party. They will give you instructions on properly serving the other party.

After service is completed, there is a Mandatory Initial Self Disclosure period of not more than 45 days where you must exchange information with the other party, generally having to do with finances.

After your case is filed, you will get instructions on when and where your First Appearance court date will be.

Can I Expedite my Divorce in New Hampshire?

Yes. If both you and your spouse agree to start a divorce, you can file a joint petition. You’ll need to sign the petition in front of a notary public of a justice of the peace.

You’ll mail or file the petition at your local courthouse to start the process.

You can also speed up the divorce process by agreeing in advance to all of the issues related to your divorce. An uncontested divorce clears the way for the courts to review your paperwork and sign off on a final decree in the shortest amount of time possible.

No matter what type of divorce you’re seeking, you should also make sure you provide all requested information, meet all of your court dates and other obligations to minimize the length of time your case will take.

What is the Cost of a Divorce in New Hampshire?

The fee to file for a divorce in New Hampshire is $250 if you have no minor children. The fee is $252 if you have children.

If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can file a Motion to Waive Filing and Service Fees and a judge will decide if you can proceed without paying any fees.

Do I Need an Attorney for a Divorce in New Hampshire?

Do I Need an Attorney

No, an attorney is not mandatory. But if you go to court without representation, you may put yourself at risk of protecting your interests and gaining a favorable outcome.

Things can get complicated quickly when it comes to child custody, support, and asset issues.

But if you can work out all issues in advance and remain civil to your spouse, you can save quite a bit of time and money.

Recent changes in New Hampshire court rules allow an attorney to represent you for only part of your case to help reduce costs. This is known as unbundled legal services, and may be appropriate if you’re having problems in a few clearly defined areas.

How Do I Stop or Cancel a Divorce in New Hampshire?

If you are the defendant in a New Hampshire divorce, you can’t stop or cancel a divorce. If you are the petitioner, you can file a motion for dismissal and that will end your court case.

When your divorce has been finalized, you cannot reverse a divorce at that point.

To reconcile with your ex, you will need to get married again.

What is a Contested Divorce?

In New Hampshire, if you don’t agree on all of the issues related to your divorce, you have the right to contest those things you don’t agree with, such as child custody, alimony or a division of assets.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When you and your spouse agree on all the issues of your divorce, this means the divorce is uncontested and that you can quickly move forward to finalize your case.

An uncontested divorce saves time and money, and you may not even need to retain the services of an attorney to help you with your case.

What is a Divorce Decree?

Divorce Decree

In New Hampshire, a Decree of Divorce is the court’s final action granting your divorce from your spouse. It is a detailed listing of rights and responsibilities that both you and your spouse must follow.

This includes child custody, a division of assets, alimony, and other related issues.

As a legal document, if you do not, you can be held liable and elements of the decree can be enforced by court actions.

What is a Divorce Certificate?

A divorce certificate contains much less information than a Decree of Divorce. it generally only lists the names of the divorced parties, and when and where a divorce took place.

It is often used when someone wants to get remarried or legally change their name.

In many cases, records for individuals divorced in New Hampshire are available from the city or town clerk in your community.

If you were divorced in New Hampshire sometime after 1979, you will likely be able to get a certified copy of your divorce certificate at Manchester’s One City Hall Plaza or from the New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration.

Fees are $15 for the first copy and $10 for each additional copy requested at the same time. Records are considered confidential and access is limited to those individuals who have a “direct and tangible” interest in the record, such as the divorced person, a family member of their attorney.

You can visit Manchester’s Office of the City Clerk, One City Hall Plaza, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday from 8:00 am to 5 pm. or on Tuesday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. You will also need to provide photo identification and complete a request form.

You can also purchase divorce certificates online. You will be required to email a copy of your photo identification.

You can also request a copy by mail. Complete the application form Request for Divorce Decree and send with proper payment to the Office of the City Clerk, One City Hall Plaza, Manchester, NH 03101. A self-addressed return envelope with the appropriate postage is required to process mail requests.

What is a Bifurcated Divorce in New Hampshire?

A bifurcated divorce means dividing some issues of a divorce into two separate cases.

It is allowed in some divorce cases in New Hampshire. Judges are reluctant to go this route because it creates judicial inefficiencies and there is less incentive to finalize a case.

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.

Rather than delay the entire divorce, the court retains jurisdiction over the couple to work out the remaining issues.

What is a No-fault Divorce?

What is a No-fault Divorce 1

A no-fault divorce in New Hampshire is the simplest form of divorce. All you must do is cite “irreconcilable differences leading to an irremediable breakdown of the marriage” as the reason for your divorce.

How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in New Hampshire?

Adultery is one of nine fault-based grounds for divorce in New Hampshire.

Unlike some other states, adultery can be used to seek an advantage when it comes to other issues, such as dividing assets.

You must be able to prove adultery took place by submitting evidence to the court. This may include photos, phone records, witness testimony, private investigator reports, credit card receipts, and other types of similar information.

Changing Your Name

When preparing your divorce forms, you will be presented either an option to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.

The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.

Just having a court order does not mean your name change has taken effect. You will need to contact all of your organizations to request your records are updated.

We recommend starting by updating your name with the Social Security Administration. Once you’ve done that, you can go on to change names everywhere else.

It’s time-consuming to contact each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.

Read: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name

Recommended Divorce Resources

There are a whole lot of divorce tools online that make big promises of what they can do for you. Most don’t make our cut. A few stand out above the rest.

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If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:

  • Online divorce
  • QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
  • Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
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