What types of parental rights and responsibilities are there?
When deciding custody matters, the judge will determine how to divide the parental rights and responsibilities that each parent will have concerning the child. The judge can award either parent the following:
- decision-making responsibility, which is the responsibility to make decisions for specific issues, or it could apply to all decisions for the child; and
- residential responsibility, which is a parent’s responsibility to provide a home for the child.1
The judge is supposed to assume that joint decision-making responsibility is in the best interest of minor children in the following situations:
- both parents agree to joint decision-making responsibility; or
- either parent asks for joint decision-making responsibility and in the judge thinks that it is appropriate.2
However, if the judge determines that abuse has occurred, the judge must consider such abuse as being harmful to the child and must consider the abuse as evidence in determining whether joint decision-making responsibility is appropriate. The judge is supposed to make an order that best protects the child, the abused parent, or both.3
1 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:1(II), (V), (IX)
2 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:5(I), (II)
3 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:5(III)
What is a parenting plan?
As part of every custody case, there will likely be a parenting plan put into place, which is a written plan describing each parent’s rights and responsibilities. The parents can come up with the parenting plan together or if that’s not possible, the judge will create it. Within the parenting plan, there will be a detailed parenting schedule, which is the schedule of when the child is in the care of each parent. It will include when each parent has residential responsibility or non-residential parenting time. It is not supposed to use the phrase that the child “resides primarily” with one parent or that one parent has “primary residential responsibility” or “custody” or is the “primary residential parent.”1 For more information, go to What is usually included in a parenting plan?
1 N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 461-A:1(VI), (VII); 461-A:4(I), (VI)
What is usually included in a parenting plan?
A parenting plan may include terms regarding the following:
- decision-making responsibility and residential responsibility;
- information sharing and access, including telephone and electronic access;
- the legal residence of the child for school attendance;
- a parenting schedule that includes:
- holiday, birthday, and vacation planning;
- weekends, including holidays, and other days off from school;
- transportation and exchange of the child;
- relocation of parents;
- the procedure that the parents will follow for review and adjustment of the plan; and
- methods for resolving disputes.1
If the parents have joint decision-making responsibility, the parenting plan must include the legal residence of each parent unless the judge determines that:
- there is a history of domestic abuse or stalking; or
- including such information would not be in the best interest of the child.2
If the parenting plan includes a parent’s residence, the parent must immediately notify the court and the other parent of any change in address. The failure to provide such information could lead to the parent being held in contempt of court.2
1 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:4(II)
2 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:4(IV)