An uncontested divorce is exactly what it sounds like: neither spouse is objecting to the dissolution of the marriage. However, New Hampshire takes this one step further. You and your spouse must also agree on every detail of how you’re going to separate your lives. If you can’t reach an agreement, your divorce is contested. Even if you and your spouse are only disputing one small detail, the law requires a judge to decide that one small detail for you.
Because you and your spouse must agree on everything, the grounds you choose can be important. New Hampshire recognizes the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences, so most uncontested divorces proceed on this basis. If you file on one of New Hampshire’s 10 fault grounds, an uncontested divorce effectively requires that your spouse admit he did something wrong to end the marriage, such as committing adultery or being cruel to you. If you do file on fault grounds, but you and your spouse then reach an agreement on everything else, speak to an attorney about amending your petition to no-fault grounds so you can finalize your divorce without a trial.
New Hampshire streamlines the uncontested divorce process by allowing spouses to file a joint petition for divorce. The law doesn’t require that you have a comprehensive settlement agreement already signed. You can still jointly ask the court to end your marriage and begin negotiating an agreement after you file. A joint petition saves you the requirement of having your spouse officially served with the petition because you’ve filed for divorce together.
Petition Filed by One Spouse
If you and your spouse don’t file a joint petition, New Hampshire requires you to serve him with your divorce papers, even if your divorce is amicable. After you file your petition, the court sends a notice to your spouse advising him to come to the courthouse and pick up a copy. He has 10 days in which to do this and an additional 15 days to respond to your petition. If he answers by filing an appearance, your divorce remains uncontested. If he files any pleadings indicating that he’s not in agreement with the things you asked the court to grant you in your petition, your divorce is contested.
Negotiating an Agreement
Even if your spouse files answering pleadings stating that he’s contesting the relief you’ve sought in your petition, you're not doomed to a contested divorce. You can still attempt to negotiate a marital settlement. In New Hampshire, most divorces settle by agreement before trial so they’re technically uncontested. When you reach an agreement, you must present it in written form to the court. If you and your spouse are both comfortable with its terms, and if it covers all issues, the judge will sign it into a decree. You must submit a settlement agreement to end your marriage without a trial if you file a joint petition as well. If you have children together, New Hampshire requires that both you and your spouse attend a child impact seminar, even if you consent to a parenting plan in your settlement agreement.
New Hampshire also recognizes collaborative divorce. With this process, you and your spouse are required to reach a settlement agreement before you file. Collaborative divorce involves the assistance of attorneys through one or more face-to-face meetings to help you iron out your differences. You can then file a joint petition and finalize your marriage.