New Hampshire Divorce Laws: The Possible Implications of Res Judicata

Res judicata, Latin for "thing adjudged," is a legal term that is applicable in many fields of law. It means that a party can no longer challenge a judgment already deemed final by a court of law. It also means no new claims or counterclaims, which could otherwise have been presented in a concluded case proceeding, could be introduced once judgment in the case has been made.

The Basics

Due to its general applicability, res judicata appears in federal and state laws, encompassing both issue and claim preclusion. Issue preclusion, also known as collateral estoppel, states that an issue of fact that has been judged on in a legal case can't be challenged in the future, even in a different case. Claim preclusion states that neither the plaintiff nor the defendant of a concluded case can re-sue each other for the same cause of action.

In Divorce

An article on Divorcesource.com discusses how res judicata applies in divorce cases, citing specific cases:

For example, in a 1992 North Dakota case, the court turned back a former wife’s claim to back wages against her former husband’s business, which she raised after their 1988 divorce, because "...the wage claim was capable of being, and should have been raised, as part of the divorce proceeding."

Those in the process of getting a divorce in New Hampshire should consult with seasoned divorce lawyers, like those at Upton & Hatfield, LLP, to avoid the pitfalls of res judicata. If any important claim or detail is overlooked or was not included in a divorce proceeding, the chance to pursue this claim may be lost forever once the divorce is finalized. Divorcing parties thus have to work closely with their lawyers to make sure they cover all grounds that are important to them.

Res judicata, however, does not take away a divorcing party’s right to file a new claim or charge against the other party for an issue that has not been part of or has not been judged on during the divorce proceedings. As further stated in the Divorcesource.com article:

"For example, in a 1988 Wisconsin case a former wife’s claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotion abuse were not barred by res judicata, equitable estoppel or waiver. The issues in the divorce and tort action were not identical, thus res judicata did not apply."

As in the rest of the country, complicated New Hampshire divorce laws can lead to confusion, especially when other legal or criminal matters, such as domestic violence, may be involved. Experienced and reputable New Hampshire divorce lawyers can counsel their clients on such matters so that the clients’ rights are protected and they get what they justly deserve.

Download the Legal Guide to Divorce in New Hampshire

Stay up to date with us