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Primary Parenting Responsibility - Custody

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Before filing anything with the court, it is important that you understand the repercussions of your actions. Whether or not the parents of a child are married, they have certain rights and responsibilities. This chapter will explain these rights and responsibilities before getting into the practical aspects of filing. Please read this section thoroughly before you file a Petition or before you file an Answer.

Whether to File a Petition for Parental Rights and Responsibilities

If parents are getting divorced, a court will have to make orders allocating the parental rights and responsibilities. If the parents are not married, they may ask a court to make the same kinds of orders about their children as a court would make if they were getting divorced.

Some of the reasons unmarried parents ask for a court's help are:

• The parents cannot work together.

• One parent refuses to support the child.

• One parent is denied time with the child.

• There is a threat that the child will be removed from the state.

Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan is a document that you must submit to the court before any orders are made regarding the care and control of your child. A Parenting Plan will eventually become a part of the court's order in the divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case. Ideally, the two parents work together to create a plan that they agree upon. If the two parents cannot agree, then each drafts their own proposed plan, and the court either approves one, or crafts its own. If there is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in your case, then s/he will also make a proposal.

Child Support

Under New Hampshire law, all parents must support their children. In most cases, the parent who is responsible for the child's primary residence is the parent to receive child support from the other.

Who must pay child support?

A parent must financially support his or her children, even if:

Medical Support

A parent may be required to provide medical support for his or her children and may be required to obtain health insurance coverage if it is available at a reasonable cost, such as through an employer's group health insurance policy or other group plan. You can petition the court for an order for medical support.

When a parent provides medical insurance coverage, he or she may receive a credit for some portion of the actual costs, which could reduce his/her child support order.

Paternity and Child Support

Paternity must be established before a father can be required to pay child support. The law now allows you to file a paternity action up to the child's 18th birthday. Contact DCSS for help in establishing paternity. You may also call 603 Legal Aid to request more information.

Can a support order differ from the guidelines?

Enforcing an Order

Child support orders, whether new or modified, entered on or after January 1, 1994, are subject to immediate income assignment (income withheld directly from the paycheck). Income assignments are handled through DCSS, but you must file for services with DCSS and provide a copy of the order before they will act upon the income assignment.

What can you do if child support is not paid?

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