Published in the Manchester Union Leader, August 2012.
Q: My husband and I just separated. We don't agree
on who is responsible for the bills, what is the right schedule for
time with the kids, or anything else. How quickly can I get the
court to issue an order?
A: Unfortunately, you cannot expect a speedy resolution of any
divorce or family matter in New Hampshire's Family Division.
This state's Circuit Court system has been gutted by
legislative cost-cutting, to the point that Chief Judge Ed Kelly
has warned that "we may very well be at the point at which we
are not able to give all families emergency or stabilizing court
orders." There are simply not enough judges to hear those
Accordingly, you must find a way to resolve the issues outside
of the courtroom. You and your husband aren't likely to agree
on much these days, but there are tools available to help you. Both
mediation and collaborative divorce are methods available to
resolve New Hampshire divorces and parenting disputes. Even in the
absence of a court crisis, you would be directed to mediate your
parenting issues, because court rules require parties to attempt to
work out their own parenting plan by agreement before they can ask
the court to issue one. Most parents know what is best for their
own children. In the case of a break-up, they may not be able to
calmly discuss such issues. A mediator can facilitate a discussion.
There are many skilled marital mediators in the New Hampshire Bar
Some people choose to attend mediation without lawyers present,
in order to save money. That is a matter of personal preference.
Regardless, it is always wise to consult a lawyer prior to signing
any agreement in order to fully understand your rights and
Collaborative divorce practice is another method of resolving
disputes outside the courtroom. This method may be appropriate
where multiple issues are disputed. Collaborative divorce is
an approach where couples agree to openly negotiate with the help
of specially trained professionals (attorneys, financial neutral,
and/or child specialist) in order to arrive at settlement terms
that they feel are best for themselves and their children. You can
find collaborative practitioners in your area by visiting the
website of the Collaborative Law Alliance of New Hampshire.
If your family is in crises, you can't afford to wait for
the court's funding crisis to be resolved. Turn to alternate
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is important that you have updated financial powers of attorney and New Hampshire Advance Directives, clearly nominating your spouse (or another) as the primary person to make decisions in the event of incapacity.