General Overview of Court Process

  1. File Petition for Divorce, Personal Data Sheet and Vital Statistics form with the Court along with the appropriate Court filing fee.
  2. After you file, the Court will process the Petition and open a Court file. After the file is opened, you may receive notice to serve the other side with your Petition, or the Court may send a notice to the other side that a Petition for Divorce has been filed. The Orders of Notice will contain important dates for a party to respond to the Petition. The Orders of Notice will also prohibit each party from selling, transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing or disposing of any property except by written agreement of the parties, for reasonable and necessary expenses of living or in the ordinary course of investing, or by further order of the Court.
  3. Following proper service of the Petition for Divorce, the Court will schedule the case for a First Appearance. At the First Appearance, Court personnel will review the procedure of divorce with the parties and make an effort to schedule the case for mediation.
  4. If parties are not able to reach temporary agreements, a Temporary Hearing may be requested. At the Temporary Hearing, each party will be allowed to request temporary orders from the Court regarding the use and possession of the home, the parenting schedule for the children, child support and alimony, payment of other expenses and debt, and any other issue that may need immediate attention. Following the hearing, the Court will issue a Temporary Order in the case. For a list of the issues that the Court may hear at a Temporary Hearing, see the Temporary Decree form.
  5. The Court may also schedule a Structuring Conference to hear from the parties about the issues in their case and to set a timeline of events for discovery and future hearings to keep the case on track.
  6. Each party will need to prepare a Financial Affidavit under oath LINK to financial affidavit, and to complete the initial financial disclosures as required by NH Court Rule 1.25-A.
  7. After the Temporary Hearing or Structuring Conference, parties will decide whether additional financial or other discovery is needed in their case. Common examples of further discovery may include the appraisals of property or businesses, the production of additional financial documentation, the retention of expert witnesses, or the depositions of either party or witnesses. The Court may provide a series of dates for the completion of such discovery.
  8. Some months after the Temporary Hearing or Structuring Conference, the Court may schedule the case for a Pretrial Hearing. Generally, the Pretrial Hearing will outline to the Court and to the other side the disputed issues in the case, the witnesses that may be called to testify at a final hearing, the status of settlement discussions, and any unresolved discovery issues. More importantly, the Court may schedule the case for a Final Hearing at the conclusion of the Pretrial Hearing.
  9. Following the Pretrial Hearing, the Court will hold a Final Hearing to hear from the parties and witnesses on the disputed issues in the case. The date the Court sets for a Final Hearing varies from Court to Court and may depend upon the number of disputed issues that you may have in your case. Generally, the Courts are experiencing noticeable delays in scheduling cases for all hearings, including final hearings. Parties may be encouraged to reach agreements on as many issues as possible, known as partial agreements, to limit the amount of time that will be needed from the Court. Following the Final Hearing, the Court will issue a written order on each of the disputed issues. For a list of the issues that the Court may decide, see the Final Decree form.
  10. At any point during the Court process, parties may resolve their differences by agreement through mediation, negotiated settlement or other dispute resolution method and submit their agreements to the Court for approval. For more information on such dispute resolution methods, see Mediation, Negotiated Settlement, or Collaborative Law.