Understanding physical and legal custody in New Hampshire

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2017 | Blog, Firm News

As you consider all the things you have to split after a divorce, time with children tops the list. Child custody is an important part of the divorce process, and it has several different factors.

When determining custody, the courts may choose between physical and legal custody. There are a few key things to understand about these two options.


As the name indicates, physical custody determines whom the child lives with. On the other hand, legal custody allows the parent to maintain the right and responsibility to control the legal decisions for the child. Some common legal custody matters include:

  • Education
  • Medical decisions
  • Religion

Courts prefer that parents try to come to an agreement themselves to continue to share these responsibilities. In such cases, the parents must develop and submit a parenting plan to the court. However, if the two parties cannot come to an agreement, or if allowing a parent to maintain custody puts the children in danger, the courts may designate custody.

Court decision

The courts determine custody in accordance with the New Hampshire statute of parental rights and responsibilities. In short, the court considers various factors to determine what situation would be in the best interest of the children. Usually, the courts will determine primary and secondary physical custody between the two parents and joint legal custody. In cases where there are signs of physical abuse or harm, the courts may limit or terminate custodial rights of the abusive parent.


Though modifications are rare, they are possible. A court may make a modification to a custody determination for a few different reasons. For example, if the two parties come to an agreement, there is a change in the home or if a mature child requests a different arrangement, the courts may modify the custody arrangement.

Custody has a strong impact on the children and the family as a whole. Take some time to understand the process in general so you may pursue the best scenario for your family.