What Do I Need to Prove to Get a Divorce in New Hampshire?
At the beginning of your case, you’ll need to prove to the court that there is a legal reason (also known as “grounds”) that the judge should permit you and your spouse to divorce. In New Hampshire, there are two general categories of grounds.
In the first category, the “guilty spouse” has harmed the “innocent spouse” by committing marital misconduct (wrongful behavior). This is also known as “fault.”
New Hampshire recognizes the following fault grounds for divorce:
- “extreme cruelty” (emotional or physical abuse)
- conviction of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, followed by imprisonment for the same offense
- reckless or negligent behavior that risked the innocent spouse’s life or physical and mental health
- desertion with no contact for at least two years
- alcohol or drug abuse for at least two years
- participation in a “religious sect or society” which claims that the marital relationship is unlawful and a refusal to live with the innocent spouse for at least six months, and
- abandonment without “sufficient” (good) cause or consent for at least two years.
New Hampshire also allows spouses to pursue “no-fault” divorces, in which the parties don’t argue, and the court isn’t allowed to consider, whether either spouse was at “fault.” If one or both spouses prove or agree that there are “irreconcilable differences,” which have caused the “irremediable breakdown of the marriage,” the divorce will be granted. This simply means if the marriage has broken down and can’t be saved, the judge will grant a divorce.
Do I have to live in New Hampshire to get a divorce there?
It depends on whether you are the one asking for the divorce (“the plaintiff”) or the one who is being asked (“the defendant”). New Hampshire judges have “jurisdiction” (the power or authority) to hear divorce cases if one of the following three conditions is met:
- both parties were living in New Hampshire when the divorce petition (legal paperwork) was filed and the divorce process began
- the plaintiff was living in New Hampshire, and the defendant was served with the initial divorce papers while in the State of New Hampshire, or
- the plaintiff has lived in New Hampshire for at least one year before filing divorce papers.
My spouse and I are trying to work out our differences, but we already filed divorce papers. What should we do?
If you have already begun divorce proceedings, but you haven’t finalized the divorce and you still want the opportunity to salvage your marriage, then you will need to prove one of two things.
First, if you can show the judge that there is a “likelihood for rehabilitation of the marriage relationship” (meaning, it’s probable you can improve your relationship), then state law requires the judge to refer you and your spouse to a counseling agency upon your request.
Second, if you prove to the judge that there is a “reasonable possibility of reconciliation” (meaning that it’s reasonably likely that you and your spouse will get back together), New Hampshire divorce laws require the judge to “continue the proceedings.” This is also known as a continuance, and it means that the divorce is put on hold while both of you go through court-ordered marriage counseling. The judge will choose the counselor, but must make a good faith effort to find one that is covered by your health insurance policy.
How long does it take to get divorced in New Hampshire?
It really depends on the facts of your case and your ability to cooperate and compromise with your spouse. If you’re able to agree on most issues, you don’t have many debts or assets, or you don’t have children, then your divorce could be complete in as little as several months. But if you and your spouse can’t agree on important issues like the division of property or custody of your children, then the process could drag on for a few years.
New Hampshire offers opportunities to settle divorce cases out of court by using mediation and similar processes, like collaborative law. If both parties approach settlement with an open mind, they can substantially cut the amount of time needed to finish the process and obtain a final divorce decree.
Are there any other resources I should read?
Absolutely. You can find a great deal of valuable information on the following websites:
How to File for Divorce, Legal Separation or Civil Union Dissolution, Parental Rights and Responsibilities and Child Support (presented by the New Hampshire Judicial Branch)
Downloadable Divorce Forms (presented by the New Hampshire Judicial Branch)
How to File a Divorce Petition, including Checklists (presented by the New Hampshire Judicial Branch)
The New Hampshire Statutes (Title XLIII: Domestic Relations)