How to File Divorce in New Hampshire

How to File Divorce in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is often ranked as the “freest” state in America.  If you are, for better or worse, about to become free of your spouse, there are a few things you need to know about how to file a divorce in New Hampshire.

1. Residence requirements

New Hampshire will only consider divorce if both spouses are domiciled in the state, or if the spouse seeking the divorce has been domiciled in the state for at least one year.  

Domicile just means a permanent home, meaning where the person lives and intends to remain to live.

2. Do it together to make it easy

New Hampshire recognizes that not every divorce ends in a bitter fight.  In fact, many couples leave a marriage with little to no assets. In that situation they generally just want the judge to set them free with minimal time and expense spent in court.  

The state provides a joint petition to make this easier. The joint petition actually allows parents, with or without kids, to seek an expedited divorce.  Each spouse has to list any child or children they have, explain if they are on public assistance, give the grounds for their divorce and then explain what type of related orders they want.  

The property must be divided (plus alimony if requested) and child custody and support can be provided.  

A successful joint petition generally requires the parties to come to an agreement on issues related to money and children.  This is not always a simple agreement. Sometimes, especially with couples that have more money, third parties like lawyers or mediators will need to be involved in negotiations.  

Once that agreement is reached, a joint petition can expedite the conclusion of the process.  

Do it together to make it easy

3. Grounds for divorce

New Hampshire still has fault grounds for divorce.  

These are rarely used anymore, but historically the only way to get divorced was to prove that your spouse did something wrong.  Many states have abolished fault grounds, but in New Hampshire, you can still get divorced for impotency, adultery, extreme cruelty, conviction of a serious crime, an absence of two years, habitual drunkenness, or joining a religious sect.

Most people will get divorced on “no-fault” grounds, which New Hampshire calls “irreconcilable differences.”  

This simply requires a statement that the marriage is dead and both parties want to move on.  In fact, the law says it is improper for a no-fault divorce petition to make allegations of misconduct.  Those issues are only relevant to issues like parental rights.

A spouse faced with serious abuse issues may be one of the few that still files a fault-based divorce.

4. The court may try to keep couples together

Judges in New Hampshire have the right to refer a divorce case to an appropriate counseling agency to try and get the couple to reconcile.  This is also a bit of a antiquated idea, and for that reason, it is rarely used.  

Generally, if a couple says they want divorced then the court will let them get divorced.  

5. Divorce usually settles issues of money and children

New Hampshire courts can grant divorces without addressing property and child-related issues.  That said, most divorces will include an order dividing up the assets of the couple.

The judge must “equitably” divide the property according to a list of factors, but most couples come to an agreement to avoid the whims of a judge.  Child support and custody must also be addressed, if necessary.

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