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Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Our attorneys know the rules, regulations

Whenever two parents make a decision to no longer live together or continue on with their relationship, a decision must also be made on where the child will take up residence. These common issues arise as part of divorce proceedings, but may also be standalone family law proceedings that occur when a non-married couple has a child together. Resolving parenting issues and placement can sometimes be difficult when both parents want as much time as possible with their child. In these cases, it is important to understand the legal rights you have, and how to protect them.

Our Dover, New Hampshire law firm Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. has represented many parents involved in custody disputes. We understand how important custody issues are to families and we put our legal skills to work in helping you come up with a fair and reasonable resolution to your custody case. We can put our resources to work to address whatever issues may arise, including:

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What are New Hampshire's child custody laws?

Parents are always encouraged to create a parenting plan without court intervention. This plan will outline the arrangements for caring for the children, and will involve the parents in joint negotiation. This simpler solution causes the least amount of acrimony since the family can decide what is best for itself. If they are not able to resolve the dispute, the court may order parents to attend mediation.

Sometimes, a dispute cannot be resolved without a court issuing an order. When these circumstances arise, the court will consider the best situation for the child. There are many factors that are part of determining what is in the best interests of the child, including whether one parent has served as the primary caregiver. Then it may be determined that they can provide the most stability and access to extended family and community.

Usually, courts will determine that is it best for both parents to be involved in the child's life to some extent. In certain cases where a parent is not present, unfit, neglectful, abusive or otherwise not qualified to parent, the court may award sole custody and limit visitation rights.

We help New Hampshire families

Our family law attorneys at Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. know what it takes to keep a family as intact as possible after a divorce. We know that it is no easy feat. We also know that it is extremely important that you know your parental rights, and that issues may arise that could challenge them. That's why we offer a consultation, and professionalism every step of the way.

Parenting Plans

When two parents separate and want to create a parenting agreement (formerly referred to as "custody"), that is called a "parenting plan." These plans outline how the two separating parents or individuals will co-parent together once a separation is finalized. Parenting plans recognize the importance of maintaining some aspects of the familial unit when it comes to raising children, and addresses the rights of both the child and his or her parents. These are often seen and treated as a collaborative effort.

If you feel like it's impossible to agree on your parenting plan, our experienced New Hampshire child custody lawyers at Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. are here to help.

When a couple is separating and there are children involved in the situation, a parenting plan typically serves as the formal legal agreement outlining each parent's rights. Usually, each parent will have some physical access to the child, and a joint/shared schedule may be drawn up that involves the custody of the child. This may come in the form of primary residential placement, but sole custody is usually reserved for situations where one parent is deemed unfit.

If parents are unable to create a working plan, they can litigate the issue of parental rights in court, where the judge will consider what is in the best interest of the family and the child. No matter how a plan is conceived, it will be legally enforceable and the parents must abide by it.

Because parenting plans are legally binding, it is important to understand your legal rights and have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to ensure what is best for the whole family.

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Abuse and Neglect Cases

When a parent is accused of child abuse or neglect, the child may be taken away until an abuse and neglect hearing is held. These hearings are usually conducted in family court and will determine whether the child should be separated from their parent(s), either temporarily or permanently.

Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. understands the serious nature of child abuse and neglect and the grave damage that can come from abuse and neglect. We also understand that it can be equally damaging to separate children from their parents and to break up families based on unsubstantiated claims. Contact us if you or a loved one are facing a potential child abuse or neglect case. We can help build a solid case, including possibly reuniting families if claims are found to be false.

If the parents are divorced or otherwise apart, sole placement may be awarded to the other parent who has not been accused of the abusive behavior. If the family is intact, the child may be placed with a relative or in the foster care system.

Sometimes, these allegations are not true and can be contested. If you have been falsely accused of abuse or neglect, or if you have solved the problems leading to the accusation, we work with you to reunite you with your children.

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Child Support

In the state of New Hampshire, all parents are expected to support their children even if the parents are not raising the children together. In order to make sure every child gets the support that he or she deserves, New Hampshire has created uniform child support guidelines for determining the appropriate support amount. These guidelines will apply in your child support case, unless there's a statutory exemption as to why an alternative support amount is more appropriate.

In New Hampshire, if a court is asked to determine child support, it does so by using the state's Uniform Guidelines. These involve:

  • Calculating how much each parent makes
  • Subtract certain qualifying expenses
  • Add the numbers together to arrive at a total family income, which is referenced in the child support guidelines.

These calculations are used to ensure that a child in a one parent home will get the same amount of family support as a child in a two-parent home.

We represent clients in all types of child support matters. We can serve as your child support lawyer in New Hampshire and assist you in understanding the guidelines of these situations, how they apply to your situation, and help petition for support when necessary. We can also assist you with collection issues, modifications of child support, and any litigations relating to such matters.

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Paternity

When the paternity of a child is in question, it is possible for the court to compel a person to undergo a paternity test. Either the mother or perspective father can petition the court in order to have the paternity of a child determined. While paternity tests cannot be 100% conclusive, generally paternity can be determined with greater than 99% accuracy. If the party in question is proven to be the father of the child, he can petition for visitation or residential placement of the child.

He will also become subject to child support until the age of 18, unless his parental rights are terminated, a decision that is made by the court for the best interest of the child. If you or a loved one would like to know more about the legal services we can provide to clients in paternity cases, contact Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. for a consultation today.

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Guardianship

When someone is unable to care for themselves, a guardian may be appointed. There are varying reasons for the need of guardianship, such as not being sound of mind due to mental illness, physical disability, or mental incapacity. Children or minors that have not reached legal age may also need a guardian.

A child who is not being properly cared for by their parents who still retain their parental rights may automatically need a guardian. They do not have the full rights as an adoptive parent, but they have the right to care for and make decisions for the child, including keeping the child from their parents in certain situations.

In other cases, New Hampshire may petition to appoint a legal guardian for someone the court deems incapable of taking care of themselves, such as an elderly person whose friends or family may petition for their appointed guardianship. Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. can represent your interests in all of these cases, help you understand your legal rights, and advocate for your position with the court. Contact us today.

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