PARENTING RIGHTS & LAWS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
As a Family Law Attorney one of the first questions I am asked from clients when a child is involved is Parents Rights and Visitation Rights in NH.
This is often the most emotionally riddled and heart-wrenching area of practice in which we engage. There is no commodity more precious than our children, and no amount of money, or other consolation will ease the pain of being removed from the daily lives of one's children as a result of the divorce process or unwed parenting dispute.
Parenting Laws NH
In October of 2005, New Hampshire enacted RSA 461-A which is titled "Parental Rights and Responsibilities". The new statute is intended to provide the courts and parents with guidance as to how to best address issues relating to children. The purpose of the statute as stated in RSA 461-A:2 is to encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of raising their children and to develop their own parenting plan with minimal court involvement, with the assistance of attorneys and through the use of mediation.
In Family Division Courts, one of the first Court appearances will be for a "First Appearance". This is a time scheduled by the Court for parents, whether involved in a divorce or parenting dispute, to appear before the court so that they can be scheduled for a two (2) hour mediation session, at a minimum, to address parenting issues. (But see the Mediation session, below).
The First Appearance is intended to allow parents to focus upon issues relating to their children relatively early in the process. The goal is for parents, with the assistance of counsel and a Court Certified Mediator, to reach an Agreed upon Parenting Plan. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement after the first mediation session, then either parent can request a temporary hearing to address any unresolved issues.
Parenting Disputes & Responsibility
In an effort to soften the effects of divorce and/or parenting disputes upon the parties and their children, the State of New Hampshire no longer uses terms such as "custody" and "visitation". Under the current rules, parents are encouraged to work together to agree upon a Parenting Plan which establishes the parents respective rights and responsibilities. The terms "legal custody" "physical custody" and "visitation" are now referred to as "Parenting Decision Making Responsibility", "Primary or Shared Residential Responsibility" and "Routine Parenting Schedule".
In New Hampshire (and again in most of the fifty states) an initial parenting schedule determination is based upon the "best interest of the child" standard. This means exactly what it says, and absent an agreement between the parents our Courts will attempt, to the extent humanly possible, to place a child with the parent who can best advance their overall best interests.
A significant consideration in this assessment is which parent has historically been the primary care provider for the children throughout their lives. Primary care providers are the parent(s) who change diapers, schedule and attend medical appointments, pick up and drop off children at day care and school, help with homework, and generally provide the bulk of guidance and emotional support in raising their children. In many of today's families, those duties are shared between working parents and traditional roles and relationships have become reconfigured.
The current statute indicates that its purpose is to allow parents to share in parenting responsibilities; however, it falls short of indicating that a shared parenting schedule is the main objective. I would be grossly remiss if I did not inform every one of my clients that our marital system still has a profound gender bias often favoring women in closely contested cases. While men have been assuming an increasingly active and involved role in sharing such responsibilities, in many families this function, by design or by default, falls to the wife, who also keeps the house and often works outside the home as well. However, Courts and society in general are evolving and recognizing the increasingly involved and important roles played by both partners in today's family.
Whether you believe you will be able to reach an agreed upon Parenting Plan with the other parent of your child(ren) or if you believe that parenting issues will be highly disputed, the Law Office of Shaunna L. Browne, PLLC is ready to represent your interests with the highest level of professionalism, understanding and courtesy.
I strive to meet every client's needs and will do whatever possible to ensure that a father or mother who has legitimate concerns and issues relating to their child(ren) is given the highest level of attention and representation in an effort to convince the presiding judge or marital master that they are the parent that will best meet their children's needs. I strive to maximize my client's parenting time with their children and minimize the impact of divorce upon them.
Let me put my extensive years of experience concentrating in family law to work for you and your family.
"When family matters you need to call"
Shaunna L. Browne Law PLLC
102 Bay Street, Suite #2 Manchester NH 03104
For a Free Initial Consultation Call - 603-626-8080