New Hampshire Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested New Hampshire divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in New Hampshire.

To file for a divorce, legal separation or dissolution of a civil union in New Hampshire, 1) both parties must live in New Hampshire at the time of the filing; or 2) the filing party must have lived in New Hampshire for a year; or 3) the responding party must be personally served in the state. The action may be filed in the county where either party lives.

Grounds for divorce are No-Fault, which means irreconcilable differences that have caused an irremediable breakdown in the marriage, so that "either party has seriously affected the health or endangered the reason of the other party"; and general grounds of 1) impotence, 2) adultery, 3) abandonment and not being heard of for two years; 4) imprisonment for more than a year; 5) physical abuse or reasonable apprehension of physical abuse; 6) desertion without support of husband spouse for two years; 7) extreme cruelty; 8) habitual intemperance (drunkenness for two years); 9) living separate and apart without cohabitation for two years; and 10) mental illness.

Actions are filed in the Superior Court. The filing spouse is called the Petitioner; the responding spouse is called the Respondent.

The grounds for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce as are the residency requirements.

New Hampshire does not offer a simplified or summary divorce. However, if both parties agree to a divorce, legal separation or dissolution of a civil union, they may file a joint petition and thus save the cost of formal service of the divorce papers. Filing jointly can be done even when the parties do not agree of the division of property or the terms and conditions of custody and visitation. By definition, jointly filed actions are uncontested, even when the parties continue to negotiate after the filing.

If a party files as an individual, he or she must file the following forms:

> A Petition for Divorce, which identifies the parties, states the grounds and may request temporary orders, if need be;

> A Personal Data Sheet, which gives the court information about the couple;

> Financial Affidavits, which are completed by each party and which profile the finances of the party;

> A Vital Statistics form, which is used by the state for record-keeping purposes;

> A Final Decree of Divorce or Legal Separation, which is the instrument by which the court ends the marriage.

Divorcing couples with minor children must file all of the above forms as well as the following:

> A Certificate of Completion of Child Impact Seminar, which certifies that the parents of minor children have completed a mandatory four-hour program called Children First.

> A Parenting Plan, which spells out the terms and conditions of custody and visitation;

> A Uniform Support Order, which spells out the terms and conditions of spousal and child support;

> Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, which shows the calculations made to determine child support.

Whether a couple with children files jointly or one spouse initiates the action, after the service in an individual petition, the divorcing couple with minor children are scheduled for a First Appearance Session. A date will be selected for them to attend a Child Impact Seminar, where they will hear about mediation, guardians ad litem and child support.

After the appropriate forms have been filed, the court notifies the Respondent that he or she has 10 days to pick up a copy of the Petition to which has been attached a Notice to Respondent and an Appearance form. The Respondent has 15 days to enter an appearance.

If the Respondent picks up a copy of the Petition, he or she can enter an Appearance, and the divorce moves along as an uncontested action.

If he or she does not pick up a copy of the Petition, the Court sends an Order of Notice. The Petition must then make arrangements for the Petition and Order to be served on the Respondent. This is either done by certified mail or through the sheriff by personal service.

If the Sheriff cannot locate the Respondent or he or she will not accept service, the Court, upon motion by the Petitioner, will consider alternate methods of service, which is Service by Publication in a newspaper.

After the papers are served, if the Respondent has not answered, the Petitioner may ask for a default hearing, which must be held 30 days after the Petitioner moves. All the requisite forms for a divorce must be filed before this action may be taken. In addition, the Petitioner must also file:

> An Affidavit as to Military Service, which certifies that the Respondent is not eligible for any protection from civil litigation under the Servicemembersí Civil Relief Act or that he or she agrees to waive any protection;

> An Affidavit of Impossibility, which states the impossibility in obtaining the Respondentís Financial Affidavit;

> An Affidavit of Non-Cohabitation, which states that the Petitioner and the Respondent have not cohabited.

Even when one party files, when both spouse come to agreement, they can file for an Agreed Divorce. When one spouse refuses to cooperate, the other can ask for and receive a Default Divorce, whereby the filing party gets whatever he or she asked for. If, however, the spouses agree and all the required documents have been filed, the court can hand down a Decree of Divorce without the parties attending a final hearing.