OUR SERVICESParenting Rights and Responsibilities

In determining parental rights and responsibilities, including a schedule, New Hampshire courts are guided by the ‘best interest of the child’ standard.  When parents cannot agree upon the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, the court will make decisions for them.  There is a presumption that decision making rights will be shared unless there is a history of abuse.  Courts have wide discretion in determining what constitutes the best interest of a child and may consider a broad scope of evidence, including but not limited to:

  • the child’s relationship with each parent and current schedule;
  • the parenting skills of each parent;
  • the ability of each parent to provide a safe home, food, clothing, shelter and other care for the child;
  • the child’s educational and other developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs;
  • the ability of each parent to foster a positive relationship with the other parent, including the parents’ ability to cooperate;
  • any evidence of abuse, the impact of the abuse on the child and an assessment of the relationship between the child and the abusing parent; and
  • any other additional factors the court deems relevant.

In some cases, a court will appoint a “guardian ad litem,” sometimes called a guardian or GAL, to investigate what schedule would be in the best interest of the child.  The guardian will speak and meet with each parent and the child.  The guardian will also contact other important witnesses.  Such witnesses might include teachers, therapists, grandparents, caretakers, parents of the child’s friends or others who could assist in the best interest determination.  Ultimately, the guardian will issue a report recommending a final parenting schedule.  Courts often give substantial deference to the findings of a guardian but are not required to follow or defer to the guardian’s recommendations.

Schedules agreed upon by parents, rather than ordered by the court, are often very creative and specifically tailored to the needs of both the children and the parents.  Parents may develop any schedule that suits their needs by agreement.  Under ideal circumstances, parents would work together to design a parenting plan and schedule by agreement, as parents are in the best position to know what suits the needs of their family and children.  Parties are uniformly more satisfied with a schedule and parenting plan created by them, as opposed to one imposed upon them by a court.