New Hampshire Child Custody Lawyer
Understanding the State’s Child Custody Laws
The issue of where children will live, as well as who will serve as their primary custodian, is one of the most stressful aspects of any divorce or separation. As a parent, the well-being of your child is your top priority; you need to know that their physical and emotional health will be cared for, even as your family is changing.
At Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., our New Hampshire child custody lawyers assist mothers and fathers, as well as legal guardians, with all aspects of divorce, legal separation, child custody, visitation, child support, and related matters. We understand the challenges inherent in these issues, as well as their emotional and sensitive nature. To that end, our firm provides caring support and personalized attention every step of the way.
We know that no two families are alike; what works for one family may not work for yours. Rather than employing a cookie-cutter approach, our attorneys recognize the unique factors that make up your family and work to find individualized solutions tailored to your needs, concerns, and goals.
How Is Custody Determined in New Hampshire?
Many people believe that states automatically favor the mother in issues of child custody, but this is simply not true. When determining how child custody will be arranged, the court weighs numerous factors but always prioritizes the “best interests of the child.” This means that the court (not the parents) decide what the child’s best interests are and acts accordingly unless the parents can come to an agreement in mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution.
Some of the factors the court uses to award child custody include:
- The child’s existing relationship with both parents
- The ability (financial and otherwise) of both parents to care for the child’s needs
- The wishes of the child (if the appropriate/relevant)
- Connections the child has with the local community, including participation in community events and organizations, such as youth athletic leagues
- Where the child goes to school, visits the doctor, attends church, etc.
- The relationship between the parents and their willingness/ability to co-parent
- Whether there is any evidence of abuse or domestic violence
- Any financial, physical, mental, emotional, or practical factors that may hinder one parent’s ability to care for the child’s physical, emotional, mental, medical, and spiritual needs
As previously mentioned, the court will typically evaluate these and other factors and then rule on the best interests of the child. Neither parent is granted automatic favor when it comes to physical or legal custody.
Types of Child Custody
New Hampshire recognizes two main types of child custody:
- Physical Custody: Which parent will have the child live with them most or all of the time/where the child will live
- Legal Custody: Which parent is allowed to make decisions on behalf of the child regarding his or her medical care, education, religious upbringing, etc.
The court may award either sole or joint physical and/or legal custody. Sole physical and legal custody are rare, as the court typically determines that having both parents involved in his or her upbringing is in the child’s best interests. However, the court may award sole physical custody and visitation rights, along with sole legal custody. It may also award joint physical custody and sole legal custody or some other combination thereof.
When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live with in New Hampshire?
In some cases, the court may weigh the child’s preferences when awarding child custody. There is no set age at which the court may consider the child’s wishes in New Hampshire, as the law recognizes that age does not equal maturity. Essentially, the court can decide to factor in the child’s wishes regarding which parent he or she wants to live with as it sees fit.
If the court finds that the child displays significant maturity, it will carefully weigh the child’s wishes when considering other factors involved in deciding on child custody. If your child expresses a strong preference for living with you—or your spouse—this could be a factor in your child custody case.
When to Contact a Lawyer
When it comes to child custody arrangements, disputes, and modifications, it is always a good idea to consider working with an experienced attorney. The court will use its own factors to determine what it believes to be the “best interests of your child,” but you may disagree with this assessment. By having an attorney on your side, you can advocate for your family and seek a solution that fits your unique situation.
At Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., our New Hampshire child custody attorneys are here to provide the personalized guidance and dedicated representation you need. We truly care about our clients and work hard to develop legal strategies tailored to their specific concerns and goals. We understand that the stakes are high, which is why we do everything possible to protect your rights and the true best interests of your child.