Parenting rights and responsibilities (formerly known as physical custody and legal custody) take two different forms. Physical custody is now the actual schedule designated to a parent and child, known as the "routine schedule." Legal custody is now decision-making authority, either joint or sole.
Be aware that joint decision-making authority is presumed to be in the best interest of the child, and the sole is awarded in rare instances, typically with a history of proven abuse and/or neglect. In New Hampshire, the courts will make decisions regarding parenting rights and responsibilities (formerly child custody) based on the child's best interests. This involves a variety of factors, and the child may also be allowed to provide input on a parenting arrangement if evidence shows that the child is sufficiently mature.
The court will consider the following:
- The Age, Physical and Mental Health of the Child
- The Relationship of the Child With Both Parents
- The Ability of Both Parents to Support the Relationship Between the Child and the Other Parent
- The Ability of Each Parent to Care for the Child
- Any History of Domestic Violence or Abuse
The court will also consider other factors specific to each case, like other siblings, the proximity of both parties to each residence and the child's school, and any special needs of the child. These considerations are in place to ensure the child's physical, mental, social, and emotional needs are protected throughout the process and beyond. There is a misconception that once a child attains a certain age (like 12) that he or she can now "decide" with whom he or she wants to live. There is no set age as the assessment is the child's maturity, and there is no legal right "to decide." To understand better how the courts make parenting decisions, speak with one of our N.H. custody lawyers at SekellaLaw, PLLC.