by Todd W. Stevens, Esquire
A NH Statute, RSA 461-A:12, Governs Relocation of a Residence of a Child in New Hampshire
A common issue addressed by New Hampshire family law attorneys in New Hampshire divorces or NH parenting actions is the relocation of a residence of a child. A New Hampshire statute, RSA 461-A:12, controls this issue while the NH divorce or New Hampshire parenting action is pending. The statute also controls this issue after a Final Parenting Plan has been ordered by the Court.
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Instances When the NH Statute, RSA 461-A:12, Does Not Govern Relocation of a Residence of a Child in New Hamphire
This statute does not apply in all instances. For example, it does not apply if the existing parenting plan, order on parental rights and responsibilities, or other enforceable agreement between the parties expressly governs a child’s relocation. It also does not apply if the relocation results in the residence being closer to the other parent or to any location within the child’s current school district. Further, it does not apply to the relocation of any residence in which the child resides less than 150 days a year.
The Procedure for Determining Relocation of a Residence of a Child in New Hampshire under the Statute, RSA 461-A:12
Under the statute, the parent intending to relocate with the child must provide reasonable notice to the other parent. For purposes of the statute, 60 days notice is generally considered to be reasonable. The family court must hold a hearing on the relocation issue if requested by one of the parents to do so.
The Legitimate Purpose Standard in New Hampshire Relocation Cases
At the hearing, the parent seeking permission to relocate with the child bears the initial burden of demonstrating, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the relocation is for a legitimate purpose and the proposed location is reasonable in light of that purpose. There is no definition of legitimate purpose, and the Court considers whatever evidence the relocating parent chooses to submit.
Relocating for employment purposes can be considered legitimate, as can moving in order to foster closer emotional bonds between the child and his/her extended family. A legitimate purpose does not include relocating because of an acrimonious relationship with the other parent, or because one parent wants the other parent “out” of the child’s life.
The Best Interest Standard in New Hampshire Relocation Cases
If the relocating parent establishes that the move is for a legitimate purpose, then the other parent must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
The court is guided by several factors in determining if the proposed relocation is in the child’s best interest.
(1) each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move;
(2) the quality of the relationships between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents;
(3) the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the noncustodial parent;
(4) the degree to which the custodial parent’s and child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the move;
(5) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements;
(6) any negative impact from continued or exacerbated hostility between the custodial and noncustodial parents; and
(7) the effect that the move may have on any extended family relations.
The court also can consider other factors not listed above, and no single factor is dispositive of whether the child can, or cannot, relocate. In either case, the Court typically issues a written decision explaining its rationale for either allowing, or disallowing, the relocation.
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