Questions And Answers About Family Law

At the Nashua law firm of Wolfson & Bernazzani, PLLC, we have talked with countless men and women who have questions about family law issues. Below are a few of the more common questions and answers. However, for counsel tailored to your particular situation, feel free to call us at 603-272-6008 and set up a consultation with one of our lawyers.

Will I lose my kids?

A parent's right to be involved in the life of his or her child is fundamental under the New Hampshire Constitution, and the courts generally seek to maintain children's contact with both parents. So unless abuse or neglect is proven, each parent is generally entitled to spend time with his or her children.

Usually, one parent is awarded primary residential responsibility, and the other is entitled to parenting time. In making this determination, the courts are guided by the best interest of the children. Generally, the parent who has spent the most time caring for the children will be awarded primary residential responsibility, but there has been a trend toward shared responsibility with each parent having the children for approximately equal amounts of time. Which parent earns the most money has no bearing on this decision, and either the mother or the father may be the primary custodian.

Over time, we have learned how to tell when proposed residential responsibility and visitation plans are likely to work well, and when they are likely to prove troublesome. We are experienced in negotiating, and when necessary, litigating custody and visitation arrangements to meet the needs of our clients and their children, and in preparing proposed orders for approval by the courts.

How do parenting rights and responsibilities work?

There are two kinds of responsibility for children in New Hampshire: major decision-making (formerly known as legal custody) and residential responsibility (formerly known as physical custody). Most parents share joint decision-making for their child, remain involved in the child's life and participate in major decisions affecting the child.

A parent with primary residential responsibility for a child provides the primary residence of the child; however, the parents still share responsibility for most day-to-day matters, depending on whose care the child is in at the moment. In nearly all cases, major decision-making is appropriate, and often one parent will have primary residential responsibility, but this may vary based on specific circumstances. Our office frequently assists in working out both short- and long-term custodial arrangements.

A noncustodial parent is generally entitled to parenting times on a schedule, which can vary. We assist in tailoring visitation plans and schedules to the specific needs of our clients and their children. It is not unusual for problems to arise in this area, and for communication between the parties to break down. Over time, we have learned to plan for many predictable crises, like major holidays, and help the parties establish workable arrangements in advance.

A noncustodial parent is obligated to share financially in the support of the children. Support payments are calculated based on the incomes of the parents and the number of children.

How is child support determined?

When parents of minor children live apart, the parent with primary residential responsibility has a right to regular payments from the other parent for the benefit of the children. When a court orders such child support payments, the amount will be based on the number of children and each parent's income, according to guidelines issued annually by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Can I change the amount of child support?

If at least three years have passed since the court issued the child support order, you can request a modification. However, if fewer than three years have elapsed, you may still be able to modify the order if you show that circumstances have substantially changed. For instance, if you lost your job or daycare costs have significantly increased, you can ask the court to increase or decrease the amount.

To modify a support order, you must file two documents: a "personal data sheet" and a "petition to change court order." Our law firm can assist you with this.

What is a guardian ad litem?

If parents can't agree on an acceptable parenting plan, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL). The GAL is responsible for investigating the situation, which may involve interviewing the parents, talking with the children and visiting the respective houses. Then, the GAL writes and submits a report to the judge, with recommendations about what the parenting arrangement should be.

If you have questions about how to prepare for an interview with a GAL, feel free to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.

Do I have to divide my 401(k) with my ex-spouse?

If you began contributing to a 401(k) after your marriage, the account is likely to be considered marital property, and thus subject to division during divorce. If this is the case, you will need to use a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to divide the funds with your ex-spouse.

However, not all situations are clear-cut. Part of the 401(k) may be nonmarital property, for instance. Let our experienced lawyers review your particular situation and provide the tailored legal guidance you require.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods come with many potential benefits. In most cases, mediation is easier and quicker than litigation, which means it may save you both time and money. It is also a much more flexible process and allows you to craft unique solutions that truly work for you and your family.

Learn more about how mediation differs from litigation.

How do restraining orders work?

The courts will issue restraining orders to protect any person from violence or abuse by a partner, where there is evidence of actual violence or a credible threat of violence. Restraining orders may be issued against a man or a woman.

We are experienced in assisting clients in obtaining restraining orders when necessary for their protection, and in defending other clients from baseless charges of domestic violence where restraining orders were improperly sought against them.

Have other questions? Call Wolfson & Bernazzani, PLLC, at 603-272-6008 or contact us online to set up a consultation.