New Hampshire Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make my parenting plan / child custody agreement?

When creating a parenting plan / custody agreement in the State of New Hampshire, you can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can the laws of New Hampshire help me make my parenting plan?

When creating a parenting plan in the State of New Hampshire, familiarize yourself with the state laws on child custody and visitation. These laws are in the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title XLIII: Domestic Relations and especially in Chapter 461-A: Parental Rights and Responsibilities. Especially if you're representing yourself, consult the Court Rules too.

These can be an invaluable resource when creating a parenting plan / custody agreement.

Below is a summary of the provisions in the law that affect how you make your custody agreement in New Hampshire.

What preference does New Hampshire have when awarding custody?

New Hampshire believes that a child does best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in his/her life (RSA 461-A:2).

Because of this, the policy of the state is to:

  • Support frequent and continuing contact between the child and each parent
  • Encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child after separating or divorcing
  • Encourage parents to develop their own parenting plan with the assistance of legal or mediation professionals, unless there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect
  • Grant parents and courts a wide discretion in developing a parenting plan
  • Consider the best interest of the child and the safety of the parents in developing a parenting plan

Do I have to submit a parenting plan in New Hampshire?

Yes. In every case involving parenting actions or the custodial rights of parents in New Hampshire, the court requires the parents to submit a parenting plan.

You are required to work together to agree upon as many provisions of the plan as possible, and are expected to file a joint parenting plan containing all of the issues you and your ex agree upon.

If you are unable to agree, each of you should file a separate proposed parenting plan to address the issues that you can't agree on.

In New Hampshire, what should my parenting plan contain?

There are specific requirements that must be met when creating the plan (NH Court Rules, Rules of the Family Division of the State of NH, Section 2-Domestic Relations, Rule 2.18).

Your parenting plan must be written in this order and must include:

  • A statement delegating decision-making responsibilities:
    • A statement for major decisions, such as the child's education, medical, and religious needs
    • A statement concerning the day-to-day decisions for raising the child
    • Any other responsibilities the parents feel should be included
  • A residential responsibility and parenting schedule:
    • A regular, routine schedule detailing when the child will have time with each parent
    • A schedule for holidays and birthdays
    • Provisions for three-day weekends
    • A vacation schedule for school breaks and the parents' personal vacation times
    • A schedule for supervised visitation time, if supervised visitation is required
    • Any other parental responsibilities
  • A designation of a legal residence of the child for school attendance
  • Provisions for the transportation and exchange of the child
  • A statement addressing information sharing and access, including telephone and electronic access
    • A statement addressing parent-child telephone contact
    • A statement addressing parent-child written communication
  • Stipulations for the relocation of the residence of the child
  • A procedure for reviewing the parenting plan and making any needed adjustments to it
  • A method of dispute resolution
  • The attachments of any other parenting agreements

You are not required to work together to create a parenting plan if there has been any domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, or if you are excused from participating by the court.

In New Hampshire, what does the court consider when making a decision?

The parenting plan should be written in accordance with the best interests of the child and any portions of the parenting plan contrary to the child's best interests will be removed by the court.

The court considers the following factors when determining the best interests of a child (RSA 461-A:6):

  • The nature of the relationship between the child and each parent
  • The ability of each parent to nurture the child and provide the child with love, affection, and proper guidance
  • The ability of each parent to provide the child with proper clothing, adequate food and shelter, medical care, and a safe, healthy, environment
  • The developmental needs of the child and the capability of each parent to meet those needs
  • The quality of the child's home, school, and community and the effect on the child that interrupting this continuity may cause
  • The likeliness and ability of each parent to foster a relationship between the child and other parent by encouraging frequent and continual contact between the two
  • The likeliness and ability of each parent to support their child in contacting the other parenting by allowing and encouraging contact
  • The support of each parent for the child's relationship with the other parent
  • The child's relationships with any other person of importance in the child's life, including grandparents and siblings
  • Each parent's capacity to communicate and cooperate with each other, to make joint decisions concerning the child
  • Whether or not there is any evidence of abuse and the impact of the abuse on the child and the relationship between the child and the abusive parent
  • Whether or not a parent is incarcerated and the affect this would have on the child
  • Any other factors the court finds to be relevant

When the court is considering these factors, it will be taken into account whether or not an action likely to cause the child or parent harm.

In New Hampshire, does my child have a right to give an opinion?

Yes. The court will consider the wishes of your child if the child is mature enough to make a sound judgment, but typically, people keep their children out of the courtroom in their custody cases.

For a child, choosing between parents can sometimes cause stress, anxiety, and other distressful feelings. Unless your child demands to be heard, it is best to leave these decisions to the adults who have the child's best interests at heart.

The top ten cities in New Hampshire (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Rochester, Dover, Derry, Keene, Portsmouth, Laconia, Claremont.

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