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How Do I Get Custody Of My Child?

Many times the first question asked by a potential client is “How do I get custody of my child?” The first step is to understand how New Hampshire defines custody. Custody is an outdated term no longer used by the Court system. In order to encourage a less adversarial system between parents and to provide better results for children, the Court no longer uses the term “custody.” The Court refers to parenting time and “residential responsibility” instead of custody.

How do I get custody of my child?

We first look at the circumstances surrounding your child’s current living situation. This will determine how to gain what is referred to as “primary residential responsibility” for your child, a.k.a. “custody.”

Not Married:

If you and your child’s other parent were never married and do not have any paperwork already filed with the Court then to start the legal process, a Parenting Petition would need to be filed. For example, if you lived in Nashua, New Hampshire and wanted to start the process of having the Court determine an appropriate parenting visitation schedule for your child you could visit the New Hampshire Family Court’s website by clicking here. The Court website contains a wealth of information regarding the process including many of the forms necessary to start things moving in the Court system.


If you and your child’s other parent are married then the likely start of dealing with the issue of custody or parenting time would be through starting the divorce process by filing a Petition for Divorce. You could still use the Parenting Petition if you did not want to get divorced. You should consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your specific set of facts.

Do I need to go to Court to get custody of my child?

No. If you and your child’s other parent are able to agree on a Parenting Plan and submit it to the Court prior to any hearings getting scheduled then you will not need the Court’s intervention. This is the best case scenario. Even if a Parenting Petition has been filed, an adversarial process, including tense and stressful hearings do not need to take place in order for you to have a finalized Parenting Plan. There are many opportunities during the process for you and your child’s other parent to come to an agreement including mediation and resolutions facilitated by counsel.

How does the Court decide who gets custody of my child?

The Court looks at many factors when determining the best place for a child to live, but the overall standard the Court uses is what is in the “best interests of the child.” The Court uses a number of factors that are actually laid out in a statute, which can also be found on the Courts website which you can review by clicking here. A parent’s relationship with the child, a parent’s ability to provide for a child and meet a child’s needs, the support shown by a parent in fostering a good relationship between the child and the other parent and of course other very serious issues such as abuse are taken into account by the Court when determining the best place for a child to live.

Contact Us!

The Nashua Family Court is just down the road from our office and we can help you through the process of creating a workable Parenting Plan. No matter how complicated or impossible your situation may feel we can help you through it. Please call us at 603-943-5647 and we will be happy to set up a consultation to help you come up with an action plan. Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date with our latest blogs and posts.

Sarah A. Paris