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Title pretty much says it all, my friend had a kid with a girl at 16 (she was 19), and recently, she up and left him. She's still in the state, and their ages are 17 & 20 respectively now. Looking through state laws regarding how custody works, I can find no mention of dealing with minors, so my question is if minors do have rights to children they had, to begin with.

The primary law I'm looking at to try and help is NH RSA 461-A:6, some pertinent text from the law is as follows:

I. In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider the following factors: (a) The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance. (b) The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment. (c) The child's developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet them, both in the present and in the future. (d) The quality of the child's adjustment to the child's school and community and the potential effect of any change. (e) The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent. (f) The support of each parent for the child's contact with the other parent as shown by allowing and promoting such contact, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent. (g) The support of each parent for the child's relationship with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent. (h) The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child. (i) The ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make joint decisions concerning the children, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent. (j) Any evidence of abuse, as defined in RSA 173-B:1, I or RSA 169-C:3, II, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent. (k) If a parent is incarcerated, the reason for and the length of the incarceration, and any unique issues that arise as a result of incarceration. (l) The policy of the state regarding the determination of parental rights and responsibilities described in RSA 461-A:2. (m) Any other additional factors the court deems relevant.

I have been unable to find in this law or others how the situation is dealt with if one of the parents is a minor, but my friend mentioned that they had been court ordered for mediation, so I would assume they at least treat a minor somewhat like a non-minor in this circumstance. Any further information would be much appreciated.

  • Interesting question. Has the court involved your friends' parents in the process? Other states (e.g. North Carolina) explicitly state that the rights & responsibilities of a minor unemancipated parent are assumed by the parent's parents until they turn 18. However, I can't find anything specific to NH either. – Michael Seifert Dec 18 '19 at 16:40
  • @MichaelSeifert, I'm not entirely sure yet. I'll do some quick research and first see if NH has a equivalent law. – UnbeknownstPraetorian Dec 18 '19 at 17:17
  • Did the couple ever marry? If so, the 17-year-old is not a minor if this summary of NH emancipation from NH Legal Aid is correct. – phoog Dec 18 '19 at 18:01
  • @phoog They did not, but they were cohabiting when the baby was born. – UnbeknownstPraetorian Dec 18 '19 at 18:08
  • Cohabitation probably doesn't matter. The law says that a certificate of marriage is evidence of a minor's emancipation (NH revised statutes, Title I, 21-B:3). That they were living together when their child was born doesn't seem likely to bring about emancipation. – phoog Dec 18 '19 at 18:14
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The applicable state law is here. Section 461-A:2 guides the interpretation of the chapter:

I. Because children do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in their lives, it is the policy of this state, unless it is clearly shown that in a particular case it is detrimental to a child, to:

(a) Support frequent and continuing contact between each child and both parents.

(b) Encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after the parents have separated or divorced.

(c) Encourage parents to develop their own parenting plan with the assistance of legal and mediation professionals, unless there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect.

(d) Grant parents and courts the widest discretion in developing a parenting plan.

(e) Consider both the best interests of the child in light of the factors listed in RSA 461-A:6 and the safety of the parties in developing a parenting plan.

II. This chapter shall be construed so as to promote the policy stated in this section.

The law gets no more specific than to refer to the fact of being a parent. The law does not favor males over females, or vice versa, and the law does not discriminate between a parent who is a minor versus a parent who is a legal adult. The rights of parents are equal, ab initio. However, the recognition of the rights of a father does depend on the legal establishment of paternity whereas the law takes maternity to be self-evident. This may have been dealt with at birth, or may require a legal process if paternity is contested. If that part is sorted out, then disagreements about custody etc. which can't be worked out through agreement possibly with a mediator can be resolved in court. The court will determine what constitutes the "best interests of the child".

That is all there is to it, legally. That does not mean that a judge making a decision is absolutely immune from thinking that the minor father is less able take care of the child. Starting next year, a minor can seek emancipation, but until then (and until there is emancipation), the minor's parent have veto power over the father's wishes.

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