Bill Text - HB134 (2018)

Relative to causes for divorce.

Revision: Jan. 30, 2017, 3:30 p.m.










AN ACT relative to causes for divorce.


SPONSORS: Rep. Itse, Rock. 10; Rep. K. Rice, Hills. 37; Sen. Giuda, Dist 2; Sen. Avard, Dist 12


COMMITTEE: Judiciary






This bill:


I.  Amends the cause for divorce in RSA 458:7, VII from habitual drunkard to habitual abuser of alcohol or other drugs.


II.  Adds domestic violence and child abuse to the causes for divorce in RSA 458:7.


III.  Limits divorce based on irreconcilable differences in cases where a party accuses the other of behavior described in RSA 458:7.


IV.  Provides a right to trial by jury in divorce cases.


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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.






In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Seventeen


AN ACT relative to causes for divorce.


Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:


1  Grounds for Divorce.  Amend RSA 458:7, VII to read as follows:

VII.  When either party is an habitual [drunkard] abuser of alcohol or other drugs, and has been such for 2 years together.

2  New Paragraphs; Grounds for Divorce Based on Domestic Violence or Child Abuse.  Amend RSA 458:7 by inserting after paragraph XIII the following new paragraphs:

XIV.  When either party has committed one or more acts of domestic violence, as defined in RSA 173-B:1.

XV.  When either party has been found to have abused or neglected a child under RSA 169-C.

3  New Sections; Grounds for Divorce; Trial by Jury.  Amend RSA 458 by inserting after section 7-b the following new sections:

458:7-c  Grounds for Divorce.  If either party to a divorce proceeding accuses the other of behaviors enumerated in RSA 458:7 to affect the financial settlement or parenting time, the divorce shall not be granted based on irreconcilable differences, but for the grounds alleged under RSA 458:7.

458:7-d  Jury Trial.  Pursuant to  the New Hampshire Constitution, Part 1, Article 20, either party to a divorce proceeding for cause under RSA 458:7 shall have the right to a trial by jury.

4  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect January 1, 2018.









AN ACT relative to causes for divorce.


FISCAL IMPACT:      [ X ] State              [    ] County               [    ] Local              [    ] None




Estimated Increase / (Decrease)


FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021












Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Funding Source:

  [ X ] General            [    ] Education            [    ] Highway           [    ]







The proposed bill would amend the fault grounds for divorce by changing the ground "being an habitual drunkard" to "being a habitual user of alcohol and other drugs", by adding two new fault grounds for divorce: committing one or more acts of domestic violence, and having been found to have abused or neglected a child.  According to the Judicial Branch, fault grounds are currently alleged in slightly more than two percent of the divorce, legal separation and civil union dissolution cases filed.  The Branch does not have information on which to predict whether there would be more fault grounds cases filed as a result of this bill.   


The bill would also prohibit the granting of divorce based on irreconcilable differences if a fault ground was alleged, and would provide the right of a jury trial in any divorce proceeding alleging a fault ground for divorce.  Eliminating irreconcilable difference as the basis for divorce

where fault was alleged would likely lead to more contentious divorces and more contested hearings.  In addition, jurisdiction of divorces is currently in the family division of the circuit court and jury trials are only available in the superior court.  The number of additional jury trials that may occur is not known.  Unless jury courtrooms were constructed in the circuit court locations, any divorce petition alleging fault grounds would have to be transferred to the superior court for trial.  The cost of constructing additional jury courtrooms would be prohibitive.  The cost of a full day jury trial in the superior court is estimated to $2,142 in fiscal year 2018 and $2,157 in fiscal year 2019.  In addition, the cost of preliminary hearings, time to write a charge to the jury and for clerical processing related to the jury would make the cost of a jury trial well in excess of the amounts above.  If a decision was appealed, several thousand dollars of additional cost would be incurred in judge, law clerk, and staff time at the supreme court.  



Judicial Branch