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Know the Laws: New Hampshire

UPDATED July 12, 2017

Basic information about divorce in New Hampshire.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements for divorce in New Hampshire?

The judge can grant you a divorce in New Hampshire if:

  • both you and your spouse live in New Hampshire when you start the divorce case;
  • you live in New Hampshire and your spouse is personally served with the divorce paperwork while in the state; or
  • you have lived in New Hampshire for one year before filing for divorce.*

The judge can also grant you a divorce based on irreconcilable differences that have cause the permanent (“irremediable”) breakdown of the marriage.**

* NH ST § 458:5
** NH ST § 458:7-a

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back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in New Hampshire?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce.  A judge can grant you a divorce if your spouse:

  • is impotent;
  • cheats on you (adultery);
  • treats you with extreme cruelty;
  • is convicted of a crime punishable with imprisonment for more than one year and actually serves part of that imprisonment;
  • causes serious injury to your health or endangers you;
  • is absent for at least two years and has not been heard from;
  • is habitually drunk for at least two years;*
  • joins a religious sect that bans marriage, and s/he refuses to cohabitate with you for at least six months; or**
  • leaves you without your consent and refuses to cohabitate with you for at least two years.*

* NH ST § 458:7
** Dyer v. Dyer, 5 N.H. 271(1830)

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back to topCan I get alimony?

Alimony (also called maintenance) is financial support paid by or to your spouse and can be awarded as part of a divorce.  You must make a motion for alimony payments within 5 years of your divorce decree.  The judge can grant you alimony if s/he finds that:

  1. you lack sufficient income and property to take care of your needs, considering your lifestyle during the marriage;
  2. your spouse can meet his/her reasonable needs while also meeting your needs, considering your standard of living during the marriage; and
  3. you cannot support yourself in an appropriate job or you care for a child whose circumstances make you unable to work outside of the home.*

* NH ST § 458:19(I)

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back to topHow will a judge decide alimony?

To decide the amount of alimony and for how long alimony will be paid, a judge will consider:

  • the length of your marriage;
  • the age and health of each spouse;
  • the social and economic status and occupation of each spouse;
  • the amount and sources of income of each spouse, including veterans’ disability benefits but not including a minor child’s Social Security benefit payments, a second spouse’s income, or Social Security disability payments;
  • the ability of you and your spouse to find employment;
  • any property awarded to each spouse;
  • skills, assets, liabilities, and needs of each spouse;
  • the opportunity for each spouse to increase her/his income or assets in the future;
  • the fault of each party as it relates to the breakdown of the marriage; and
  • any federal tax consequences.*

After considering each factor, a judge must submit a written explanation for granting or denying alimony.**

If the judge awards you permanent alimony for a specific period of time, you can petition to renew the alimony so long as that request is made within five years of when the alimony period ends.***

* NH ST § 458:19(IV)(b),(c)
** NH ST § 458:19(VI)
*** NH ST § 458:19(VII)

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back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce laws in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire Judicial Branch provides court forms and information on how to file for divorce in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence discusses mediation in domestic violence cases.

New Hampshire Legal Aid has various self-help guides called "Filing for Divorce in New Hampshire," "Basics of NH Divorce Law," and "Grandparents' Visitation Rights in a Divorce."

The New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women publishes "A Legal Handbook for Women in New Hampshire." This handbook discusses divorce, beginning on page 93, and covers topics like grounds for divorce in New Hampshire, alimony, residency requirements, and the divorce process.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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