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What will courts consider when making child custody decisions?

Deciding how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities is essential when parents are divorcing. These decisions can be very emotional, as generally both parties want to spend as much time with their child as possible. While sometimes parents can work out child custody issues on their own, other times they must turn to the court to issue a ruling on child custody. Such rulings will be based on the best interests of the child. Family law courts in New Hampshire will consider several factors when determining how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities.

For example, each parent's current relationship with the child and each parent's ability to have a meaningful relationship with the child in the future may be considered. Each parent's ability to provide for the child's emotional and physical needs may be considered. The child's developmental needs both now and in the future, as well as each parent's ability to provide for these needs, may be considered. How the child can adjust to a new school and community may also be considered.

Each parent's ability to allow the child to have contact with and develop a positive relationship with the other parent, and whether such contact could be harmful, may be considered. Similarly, each parent's ability to cooperate with one another when it comes to making decisions regarding the child may be considered. If domestic abuse is an issue, this may also be considered. Another consideration is whether one parent is incarcerated. Finally, as a catch-all the court can consider any other relevant factors, including the child's wishes if the child is old enough to make such decisions.

Ultimately, whether parents reach a decision regarding parental rights and responsibilities out of court, or whether child custody decisions are made by a judge, these decisions must serve the child's best interests. A divorce changes not only the parents' lives but also the life of their child. Children need both parents' love and support during such times, so that they can grow and thrive post-divorce.

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