In making a decision on residential responsibility or custody, New Hampshire courts use the best interest of the child standard. By statute, the New Hampshire court may consider the following factors in determining what is in the child’s/children’s best interest:
(a) The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
(b) The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment.
(c) The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet them, both in the present and in the future.
(d) The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s school and community and the potential effect of any change.
(e) The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
(f) The support of each parent for the child’s contact with the other parent as shown by allowing and promoting such contact, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
(g) The support of each parent for the child’s relationship with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
(h) The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child.
(i) The ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make joint decisions concerning the children, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent.
(j) Any evidence of abuse, as defined in RSA 173-B:1, I or RSA 169-C:3, II, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.
(k) If a parent is incarcerated, the reason for and the length of the incarceration, and any unique issues that arise as a result of incarceration.
(l) Any other additional factors the court deems relevant.
In assisting the court in making a decision on the child’s/children’s best interest, it is critical that sufficient facts and evidence are presented on the factors listed above. Failure to provide sufficient evidence on these factors may leave the court with insufficient evidence to determine what is in the child’s/children’s best interest. In certain cases, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, more commonly referred to as a GAL, to investigate and offer an opinion as what type of parenting schedule of custody arrangement would be in the child’s/children’s best interest. The trial judge is not bound by the recommendations of the GAL and may give his or opinion whatever weight the trial judge feels is appropriate.
Navigating through a contested custody/residential responsibility is complex and emotional. The assistance of an experienced attorney is beneficial in working through the process. If you have any questions regarding a contested child custody/ residential responsibility case, please contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.