If you're a New Hampshire resident and you plan to represent yourself in your divorce, the New Hampshire Judiciary has a user-friendly website to guide you through the process.
Before you can file for divorce in New Hampshire, you or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least one year. If you or your spouse meet the residency requirements, you'll want to file a petition to begin the divorce process.
Once you're ready to file for divorce, you need to choose the correct petition. New Hampshire allows two types of divorce petitions a Joint Petition or an Individual Petition.
If you and your spouse both agree to start the divorce, you may file using the joint petition. Just because you and your spouse both agree to start the divorce process, doesn't mean that you have a final divorce agreement. A joint petition for divorce is different from an uncontested divorce in New Hampshire. You and your spouse just need to agree to start the process.
Both spouses must sign the joint petition before a notary public or justice of the peace. Once completed, the joint petition can be mailed in or filed at the courthouse. You should include the "Personal Data Sheet" and the court filing fee.
The personal data sheet asks for basic information about you and your spouse, including each spouse's address, your date of marriage, and the names of your children.
Even though you are using a joint petition, on the form itself the "petitioner" is the first spouse listed. The second spouse is the "respondent." For example, if Peter Public and Paula Public are completing a joint petition, and Peter lists his name first, Peter is the petitioner. Paula would be the respondent. Keep in mind that listing one spouse's name first on the petition won't affect the outcome of your case.
Alternatively, you or your spouse may file an individual petition for divorce. The spouse starting the divorce is called the "petitioner." The other spouse is the "respondent." New Hampshire Judiciary's website publishes individual petition forms.
Once you complete the form, sign it before a notary public or justice of the peace. You can either mail in or bring to the court the original petition and two copies, the personal data sheet, and the filing fee.
As your divorce progresses or you and your spouse reach a settlement, you'll need to file the following forms:
The New Hampshire court website provides a list of family courts. You can locate your local court by searching for your town or zip code. You should file your divorce petition in the court covering the town where you or your spouse resides.
When you bring your divorce paperwork to the courthouse, you'll have to submit a filing fee. The court clerk can explain your local court's fees. If you can't afford the filing fee, you can fill out a form asking the court to waive your fees. You may have to provide pay stubs to accompany your fee waiver request.
Service of process is an essential part of any divorce and puts on notice that the other has filed for divorce. There are specific rules on how to complete service. If you and your spouse completed a Joint Petition for Divorce, no additional service is needed.
When the court clerk receives an individual divorce petition, the clerk will issue orders of notice and attach them to the petition. The orders of notice are also mailed to the respondent's last known address. Instead of personal service, a respondent may accept service of the petition by coming to the court for a copy of the divorce papers after receiving the orders of notice. See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 458:9 (2019).
If the respondent doesn't accept service at the court within 10 days, the petitioner should have the petition and orders of notice personally served on the other spouse by a sheriff or via certified mail. The sheriff charges a prepaid fee for service. If you use the sheriff, the sheriff will mail you an affidavit of service stating how and when the petition was served.
You should file the affidavit of service with the court. If you serve your spouse through certified mail, when you receive the return receipt, (the green card) mail it and the return copy of the petition back to the court.
If you receive a petition for divorce, read through the materials very carefully. As the respondent in a divorce, it's essential that you complete the appearance form, mail the original to the court, and mail a copy to your spouse.
If you don't file your appearance, a judge could assume you don't want a voice in the divorce. Eventually the judge may make decisions about your children, your property, child support awards, and alimony amounts without your input.
An "Answer" is a response to the divorce petition. Filing an answer is not required, but if you fail to respond your spouse could obtain a divorce by default. If you disagree with any statements in the divorce petition, you should file an answer stating what parts of the petition you disagree with.
Be sure to file your answer with the court and send a copy to your spouse. A judge will consider your answer when deciding issues like who gets the house in your divorce, child support, parenting rights, or alimony.
As your divorce progresses, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to attend mediation. If either spouse refuses to attend mediation, the clerk will schedule a case manager meeting. The case manager is a court employee who guides self-represented couples through the divorce process.
If you'd like to learn more about the divorce process, read New Hampshire Divorce Basics.
New Hampshire's Family Court website offers free forms and information regarding filing fees, court locations and hours.
Additional family law legal resources are available through New Hampshire's Legal Aid Center. For more information or to find out if you qualify for services through New Hampshire Legal Aid, you can call (800) 639-5290. See N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 458:1 through 458:52 (2019).