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Domestic Relations / Family Law / Divorce

Whether the terminology is Domestic Relations, Family Law or Divorce, the lawyers at Brennan Lenehan are a team of experienced professionals ready to assist you with what is certainly one of the most life changing events you will encounter.  We understand the pressures and emotions involved in handling domestic relations matters.  We are prepared to walk you through the process when a family breaks apart and explain to you not only the law in New Hampshire on a particular issue, but explain how it relates to you as an individual.  We take pride in treating all of our clients with dignity, whether you are a business owner, stay-at-home parent, professional, tradesperson or laborer.  While assuring confidentiality, we guide our clients through each step of the process to their new future. We practice statewide and utilize a team approach to obtain optimal results.   

Divorce

When a decision is made to divorce, whether it is your decision or your spouse’s decision, it is important that you receive all of the information you need in order to make appropriate decisions for you about your future.  We take pride in explaining the process and providing a general overview of the law on divorce in the State of New Hampshire at your initial interview.  Divorce can be based upon no fault grounds (irreconcilable differences N.H. RSA 458:7A) or upon fault grounds (N.H. RSA 458:7). You need to understand the impact of your decision to go forward on fault grounds or non-fault grounds.  You need to know the cost of going forward, in terms of monetary costs as well as emotional costs.  Divorce is essentially divided into three areas:  Parenting, Support (child and spousal) and Property Distribution.

Legal Separation

Legal Separation is still a viable option in the State of New Hampshire.  N.H. RSA 458:26. The attorneys at Brennan Lenehan will explain the difference between the pursuit of a Divorce versus a Legal Separation.  In New Hampshire, if a Legal Separation is pursued, parties will obtain a Decree of Legal Separation at the conclusion of the proceeding instead of a Final Decree of a Divorce.  The major difference between a Divorce and a Legal Separation is that if a Decree of Legal Separation is awarded, spouses are still considered to be married and are not free to re-marry.

Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans (RSA 461-A:4) outline the agreement of the parties or court-ordered decision between parents as to how decisions will be made regarding the children.  It will outline the routine parenting schedule and how vacations and holidays will be shared.  At Brennan Lenehan, we seek to craft a Parenting Plan that fits your family and especially your children’s needs.  The Trial Court will approach a parenting case with the standard known as the “best interest of the children” standard.  If there is a dispute, the court can appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to assist with making recommendations to the parents and the court.  Factors to be considered by a court in making its’ decision are outlined in N.H. RSA 461-A:6.  Those factors include, but are not limited to, the child’s relationship with each parent; each parent's ability to assure the child receives medical care, food, and shelter; a child’s developmental needs; child’s adjustment to school and community; the ability of each parent to foster the relationship between the child and the other parent, and the ability of the parents to communicate with each other.  Once the divorce is final, parents will be awarded either shared decision making (the presumptive award) or sole decision making (rarely, but occasionally awarded).   You owe it to your children to find out your rights as a parent when the family breaks up.  Don’t let your children become a casualty of divorce.

Unwed Family

The break up of unmarried partners with children is afforded the same protections under the law as married spouses.  However, there are differences and it is important for you to understand the impact of listing or not listing a father on a birth certificate.  If you own real or personal property together with your partner, there is a court procedure to divide the property.  Alimony is not awarded for unmarried partners. Brennan Lenehan is versed with all of the issues and nuances faced by unwed partners when the family breaks up.

Alimony 

Are you a candidate for the award of alimony?  Are you at risk for the payment of alimony?  Divorce can be overwhelming for a spouse who has never worked outside of the home and has devoted his/her adult life to caring for the children and home, while his/her spouse has been able to advance his/her career. Alimony can be awarded if there is a need on the part of one spouse and the other spouse has the ability to pay the alimony, after considering the payment of his/her own expenses.  N.H. RSA 458:19.  Several factors can impact the award of alimony, namely, the length of marriage, age, health, socioeconomic status, occupation, sources of income, fault grounds for divorce, property awarded and the opportunity to acquire future assets and income.  Alimony is taxed to the recipient and deductible by the payor spouse.

The award of alimony is gender neutral.  We also understand the spouse who has devoted her/his energy to building the family’s coffers, attempting to balance work and family and then being asked to work harder and more hours to support two households.   Strategies employed by the recommendations of our professionals can reduce the financial impact of divorce.

Property Distribution 

New Hampshire is an equitable division state.  That is, in New Hampshire all property owned individually or jointly is considered marital property subject to the Court’s division. An equal division of property is presumed to be an equitable division of property. There are factors where an equal division may not be equitable.  For example, N.H. RSA 458:16-a outlines many factors a Court can consider in issuing a property award (length of marriage, health, employability, occupation, opportunity for future purchase of assets and income, actions by either party which contributed to the growth or diminution of the marital estate, contributions to the care of the children and education of the children, to name a few).  There are few exceptions to modifying a property award.  That is why it is so important to ensure that your attorney is well versed in the laws related to property division.  Brennan Lenehan strives to prepare you for your future after divorce by guiding you through an analysis of assets-real estate, investments, bank accounts, automobiles, retirement plans, etc.   

Grandparent Visitation

New Hampshire recognizes the importance of the grandchild/grandparent relationship.  Similar to what children experience when parents divorce, sometimes grandparents are also effected.  Sides are taken, feelings are hurt and bonds are broken, leaving grandparents who want to spend time with their grandchildren at the mercy of the battling parents.  What was once a friendly phone call to be able to spend time with a grandchild can become a challenge, if not a nightmare for all.  New Hampshire recognizes the reasonable rights to visitation with grandchildren, not only in the event of divorce, but also in the event of a death of a parent. N.H. RSA 461-A:13.  If you are a grandparent whose time with a grandchild has been terminated due to divorce or death, call Brennan Lenehan to learn what rights you have to continue your relationship with your grandchildren.

Post Divorce

There are several events which might occur after your divorce has been completed.  The law, in fact, provides for various court procedures to address when life throws a curve.  

Contempt

If your spouse is not in compliance with your Divorce Decree, you have the right to file a petition and demand compliance.  You may also be entitled to have your attorney fees paid by the non-compliant spouse. N.H. RSA 458:51

Modification

Both alimony and child support awards can be modified.  In order to modify an existing alimony award, the party requesting the modification must prove that an unforeseeable change in circumstances has occurred. For example, if you are receiving alimony and after the passage of say, 3 years, you become ill so that you can no longer work, you may be entitled to a modification of alimony. Similarly, if you are paying alimony and you become ill so that you can no longer maintain employment, you may be entitled to a modification of alimony. For those receiving alimony for a definite period of time, you may also request that the award be renewed, so long as it is requested within 5 years of the termination date.

If you are interested in receiving a modification of child support, you should know that the payment of child support can be reviewed every 3 years from the date of the last Order.  However, if there is a substantial change in circumstances, either party may request a modification of child support earlier than the 3-year review period.

Relocation

Can you relocate after your divorce?  Yes.  Both the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire and the Federal Constitution provide that you may relocate.  However, the real question is:  Can I relocate with my children?  N.H. RSA 461-A:12 addresses relocation of children. If you are contemplating a divorce, (or even a separation), in the middle of a divorce or have completed a divorce, N.H. RSA 633:4-D makes it a crime to relocate with children without permission of the other parent, so caution to those who contemplate a relocation.  Your Parenting Plan should address how you will resolve a relocation in the future.

College Expenses

Over the last several years, the issue of the payment of college expenses has seen many changes.  Prior to a statutory change in February of 2004, the Trial Court had broad discretionary powers to order parental contribution toward college education expenses under RSA 458:17 and 458:20. In re Donovan, 152 N.H. 55, 61 (2005).  In 2003, the New Hampshire Supreme Court decided that support for a child could be ordered to continue through college.  See generally, In re Breault, 149 N.H. 359 (2003).  This decision was superseded by statute shortly thereafter.  Effective February 2, 2004, the legislature amended RSA 458:17 by inserting the following language:  "No child support order shall require a parent to contribute to an adult child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school." RSA 458:17 (recodified as RSA 461-A:14, V).

In the case of In re Goldman, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire concluded Orders issued after the February 2, 2004 effective date could not require a parent to contribute to an adult child’s college expenses. 151 N.H. 770 (2005).  One month later, in the case of In re Donovan, the Court held that prior Orders could be enforced because the Amendment to RSA 458:17 was not retroactive but prospective.  152 N.H. 55, 63-64 (2005).  Support Orders requiring parental contribution to a child’s college expenses which were made prior to February 2, 2004 are thus enforceable after that date. Id.

In the 2012 case of In re Poulin, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that a stipulation incorporated into the parties’ Divorce Decree pursuant to which the parties would contribute to the children’s college expenses to the extent each party was financially able was enforceable against the Father. 164 N.H. 41 (2012).  The Court found that because the Divorce Decree in In re Poulin, which pre-dated the 2004 change in the law, ordered the parents to contribute to their children’s college expenses in a specific proportion, “‘to the extent that each party is financially able’ after deducting financial aid and the child’s own savings, the trial court ha[d] authority to enforce it.”

Effective August 27, 2013, the law now provides: “No child support order shall require a parent to contribute to an adult child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school, except as provided in RSA 461-A:21.”  RSA 461-A:14, V (emphasis added).  Although parents are presently not obligated to provide a college education for their children, Final Decrees can be drafted to address whether parties agree to pay for college expenses and if they do, whether they agree that the obligation will be modifiable or non-modifiable.  RSA 461-A:21 provides that parents may agree to contribute to their child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school as part of a stipulated Decree, signed by both parents and approved by the Court.  This change in the law applies only to parental agreements signed after the effective date of August 27, 2013. 2013 NH HB 554.  Our experienced attorneys can assist you with the determination of whether your Final Decree requires a parental contribution for college expenses.

Appellate Practice

If your divorce case does not settle out of court and goes to trial, the Family Court will issue a Final Decree. In rendering its decision, the Court may have committed a mistake of law or may have abused its discretion in applying the law to the facts of your case. In this event, you have a right to appeal the Family Court’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  The first step in the appellate process is to request a reconsideration of the Court’s Order to give the Family Court judge the chance to correct himself/herself.  If that Motion for Reconsideration is denied, then a party has 30 days from the date that the Motion for Reconsideration is denied to file a Notice of Appeal with the Supreme Court.  Time is of the essence.  Our lawyers at Brennan Lenehan are experienced in appellate law and have appeared before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on numerous occasions. 

Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements are presumed valid as a matter of law in the State of New Hampshire. MacFarlane v. Rich, 132 N.H. 608, 614 (1989).  Prenuptial Agreements address what happens to your property, not only in divorce, but in death. Why do people execute Prenuptial Agreements?   You may be entering into a second marriage and want to ensure that your assets go to your children, instead of your new spouse’s children.  You and your fiancé may have already experienced the pain of a divorce and would prefer to agree what happens to your assets in the event of divorce.  You may have family pressures.  All are acceptable reasons for having a Prenuptial Agreement.  Our state has recently upheld the validity of a Post-Nuptial Agreement.

The requirements of a prenuptial agreement are follows: (1) the agreement must be in written form; (2) there must be voluntary acceptance of the agreement with knowledge of the content; (3) there can be no duress to sign the agreement; (4) there must be full and complete disclosure of both parties’ financial status; (5) there must be a fair provision for the spouse with fewer assets; and (6) there should be an opportunity to consult with independent counsel. 

You have worked hard all of your life to accumulate your wealth and assets.  Don’t place them in jeopardy.  Let us assist you in preserving your future and your children’s future.

Complex Divorces 

Throughout the years, Brennan Lenehan has handled divorce cases on all economic levels.  The majority of our practice has been focused on representing business owners or their spouse, in addition to spouses with high asset portfolios, multiple real estate holdings and executive salaries.  If you or your spouse have executive compensation, it is important to know how the Court will treat bonus income, deferred compensation, stock and stock options.  Our firm employs a number of professionals to assist us in the valuation of your assets, such as determining the value of a majority or minority business ownership.  High income earners may be entitled to a downward deviation from the child support guidelines in certain circumstances.  Finally, with the high income wage earner and the accumulation of wealth, it is important to consider tax ramifications.     

Mediation

If you and your spouse are about to embark on a divorce, there are other options to a “War of the Roses” divorce.  One of those options is mediation.  Mediation allows you to control your destiny by being an active participant in negotiations during the mediation versus submitting your case to a judge where he/she will hear your testimony for a couple of hours and then make some important decisions which will likely impact your life for a number of years.  Mediation is less expensive, both in terms of financial cost and emotions.   Mediation is appropriate for all aspects of a divorce.  Brennan Lenehan offers seasoned divorce lawyers to perform mediation services for you and your spouse.  We offer a professional atmosphere in which to accommodate the process, whether you wish to be in the same room or separate rooms.  We will work with both of your lawyers (or both parties if you are not using a lawyer) to reach an agreement.  If you are contemplating divorce, but wish to maintain civility, mediation is a method by which you may become divorced.  We will prepare all of the paperwork once the agreement is reached so that it can be filed with the Court.  Mediation is a quicker and more affordable process to resolve an unpleasant circumstance.

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

 The New Hampshire legislature has enacted the “Protection of Persons From Domestic Violence” Act, RSA 173-B, with the purpose of preventing and deterring domestic violence and to preserve and protect the safety of the family unit for all family and household members by entitling victims of domestic violence to immediate and effective law enforcement protection and judicial relief.  If you are in immediate and present danger of abuse, the court may enter temporary orders to protect you with or without actual notice to the person who has abused you.  You may also find yourself in a situation where a DVP has been wrongfully filed against you.  At Brennan Lenehan, we will aggressively represent you against the claims.  Whatever your needs, we are here to help you.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The receipt or viewing of this information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.



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| Phone: 603-668-8300

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The receipt or viewing of this information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.