Introduction

This handbook is a user's guide to divorce in New Hampshire. It provides basic information on the legal, psychological, and financial aspects of divorce. While there are many books available on these topics, this is the only one written for people who are getting divorced in New Hampshire. Divorce law and procedure are different in every state. Books based on California or Illinois or New York divorce law are simply inaccurate when applied to New Hampshire.

While the handbook is addressed primarily to people who are, or may be, involved in a divorce, it will also be helpful to many others. Mediators, therapists, clergy, paralegals, lawyers, court staff, accountants, financial planners, and educators will find insights into the components of divorce that are not part of their professional training and experience.

Changes in the law

Since this handbook was first published in 1999 there have been substantial changes in New Hampshire family law and the procedures for divorce. Thanks to the work of the Task Force on Family Law, "custody" was abolished and New Hampshire has adopted a public policy that children do best when they have frequent and regular contact with both parents. What was the "custody" chapter has been completely rewritten to explain this policy and the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act.

Parents are to work out a parenting plan showing how they will share responsibilities for their child. Mediation, either private or court-referred, is now used by more couples to work out their parenting plan and the other divorce issues. Another respectful method of decision-making has blossomed since 1999: collaborative practice. Litigation is no longer the expected way to make divorce decisions. The chapter on decision-making options has been updated to reflect these changes.

The Family Division -- for many years an experiment in two counties -- is gradually expanding across the state. By focusing on only family cases the Family Division has developed procedures, assembled staff, and selected judicial officers who can best help families through difficult times.

Other changes will surely come and updates to this book will be published at least yearly on www.NHDivorceHandbook.com. Please check the Updates page for changes in the law or procedures which could impact your divorce.

How the book is organized

There are two themes in this handbook: how to protect your child or children during a divorce, and how to take care of yourself. The handbook chapters are arranged to help a person who is new to the topic of divorce take up these issues in a useful order. There are four main sections:

The back of the book includes a variety of useful material: definitions of terms, important sources of information, books for children and adults, names of community and support groups, and Internet sites.

Plain language

I have made every effort to write in plain English. When legal terms and technical words are first used in the handbook, they are explained. You can also find these words, as well as technical terms frequently used in court papers by judges and lawyers, in the "Definitions" section at the back of the book.

Honey Hastings, JD


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