It is the responsibility of the court to provide a fair and impartial decision in every case.
The State of New Hampshire has several laws that deal with domestic violence. The laws generally fall into two categories: civil and criminal. A civil court action is when someone files a petition asking the court for protection from someone else. A criminal court action is taken by the "state" (Police department, county attorney, attorney general) against someone who is believed to have committed a crime. The sections below will focus on the civil process.
New Hampshire law will protect you from being hit, abused or threatened by your spouse, your ex-spouse, someone you live with or have lived with in the past or someone with whom you have had a romantic relationship. If you are not sure if you qualify to file for a protective order, you should ask the staff at the court. You can go to any superior, district or family court that is closest to you. You do not need an attorney to go to court. If it is late at night or on the weekend, you should call the police and they can help you get a temporary order by calling a judge. This emergency protection order is only good until the next business day.
You will need to fill out a form titled "Domestic Violence Petition." This is the formal document that is given to the judge. It is important that you complete the form and fill in all the necessary information. If you need help with the form, you should ask someone at the court. It is important that you describe, in your own words, why you want this order and what kind of protection you need. It is best to be as detailed as you can be; describing what happened to you as completely as possible. You will be required to swear that this information is true and accurate. This information is what the judge reads before making a decision to write an order.
You must let the court know where you are living and how to get in touch with you. The court will not give the other person this information. You must complete a form titled "Domestic Violence Confidential Information." Also, if you have any other cases in any other court in the state, you must let the court know right away
Under New Hampshire law, abuse has a very specific definition and legal meaning. "Abuse" is defined as committing or attempting to commit one or more of the following acts which represent a "credible threat" to your safety. New Hampshire laws can be found on the Judicial Branch homepage:
If the court finds that there is evidence of abuse and a credible threat to your safety, a protective order may be issued. If the court finds that the there is not evidence of abuse, the petition may be denied. If an order is denied or a request to withdraw an order is granted, you can always come back to the court and ask for another order in the future if you feel you need protection.
After the hearing, if the judge gives you a temporary order, titled the "Domestic Violence Temporary Order" and Notice of Hearing, the court will help you with the next step. You will be given a date to come back to court for a hearing which is usually within 30 days. You should keep your order with you all the time. The police will give the other person a copy of this temporary order and the petition you filled out. The other person can ask for a hearing within 3 to 5 days. The court will let you know if this happens. The court will also ask you to fill out other paperwork that is very important. This is helpful to the police to be able to find the other person and to protect you better in the future. Once the other person has been served with the order, the police can help you if he/she tries to contact you in any way. If the
other person violates the order, you should call the police right away.
If you decide that you do not want this order to be in effect anymore, you must come to the court. The order will be enforced unless you fill out a form titled "Request for Withdrawal of Domestic Violence or Stalking Protective Order " and ask the court to withdraw the order. You cannot decide on your own that you do not want the order to be enforced anymore; it takes on order from the court.
In the Courtroom
On the hearing date, you need to come back to the court and present your case to the judge. The other person may be there with or without an attorney but you do not have to talk to them. If you are concerned about your safety in the courthouse, you should contact the court before you come. There will always be a security officer in the building. You should explain to the judge why you want this protective order. You can bring in witnesses if you want to. You should answer any questions the judge asks you. The other person will also have a chance to present evidence to the judge. You should not interrupt the person when he/she is talking.
Although strict rules of evidence are not used in these hearings, you and the other person will be required by the judge to provide information that is limited to the issues you have raised in the petition. It is your responsibility to provide enough information to prove that domestic violence, within the meaning of the law, has occurred. You have the right to offer your own testimony and to bring witnesses with you to support or add to your testimony. You should come to the court prepared to present all of the information you have because~it is unlikely the judge will postpone the case to give you more time to gather more evidence or witnesses.
After a Hearing
After a hearing, the judge will make a decision about your case. You will then get a final order. Sometimes you will get a copy of this order right after the hearing or you may receive it in the mail. The other person will get a copy of this order too even if he or she is not present at the hearing. As part of this order, the other person will be prohibited from buying and/or possess any firearms.
Both the temporary order and the final order can be enforced in any state. New Hampshire enters these orders into a national database. However, you should always keep a copy of your order with you wherever you go. Also, you should be aware that it is unwise and maybe even dangerous for you to try and contact the other person. Only the court can modify the order and allow you to contact the other person.
After One Year
The final order is good for one year. If you want to have this order extended, you must come to the court before the date it expires and ask the court to extend the order. After the order expires, the other person can ask the court for their guns and weapons back. You will get a notice of this hearing. You may attend but you are not required to.