My name is attorney Rich Clark. I am running for Rockingham County Attorney and have practiced law for the past 15 years in Portsmouth, N.H. at Clark & Associates, LLP. One of the areas of law I practice is divorce which ends up in our state’s family courts.

Many aspects of New Hampshire divorce law should be reformed. The changes are long overdue. Where the majority of states have updated their divorce laws decades ago, yet here they remain materially unchanged to the detriment of the Granite State’s divorcing couples and their minor children.

Our Family Courts laws allow for a litigant to allege fault-based allegations to get a disparate division of marital assets. The most common form of fault-based divorce is adultery or abuse. For example, if you prove your spouse was adulterous and it caused the breakdown of the marriage, you can ask the court for a disparate division of marital assets. What percent more can the litigant be awarded? Nobody knows because this isn’t codified. We have no idea what we are fighting for. The attorneys make out by increased legal costs when a divorce is contentious. The length of the divorce is also increased most often by years.

While the lawyers rack up legal fees, the litigants suffer by filing court motions where they sling mud at each other. The minor children suffer because the divorcing couple’s litigation becomes more contentious. New Hampshire’s fault-based divorce should have been abolished decades ago.

How can a divorce take years to conclude in New Hampshire? Where most states have deadlines for a final date, Family Courts have no final deadline requirements causing divorce cases to go on for years. Family Court judges should be mandated to set deadlines shortly after a divorce is filed. A simple deadline requirement for judges to follow would stop needless ongoing delay, allow litigants to move on with their lives, minimize the amount the lawyers are paid, minimize emotional damage to minor children and prevent a divorce in New Hampshire from taking years to conclude.

The vast majority of cases I mediate as legal counsel for a divorcing litigant settle. This ends the contentious battling, minimizes legal fees, allows the couple to move on with their lives and the minor children experience less trauma. Many states require mandatory mediation for divorce settlements and custody litigation as NH should.

One of two married couples in New Hampshire will get a divorce. If Family Court reform doesn’t benefit you, it will benefit your family member or your neighbor. Our state’s divorce laws also create an environment for false allegations, which often cause the criminal courts and law enforcement to be involved. We are encouraged to say how bad the person is to get more money. Old laws from another century continue to harm us.

Basic New Hampshire Family Court reform is long overdue. It would not take much effort to enact change for the greater good.  We need to change an outdated system.