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 address the issue of 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.
It is important that you read all the papers you have been given if you are served by the police. The papers will give you important information about your rights and what you can and cannot do. You can request a hearing on these matters within three to five business days. You must put your request in writing and send it to the court. If you don't want an immediate hearing, you must come to court on the date shown and be prepared to tell the judge your side of the story. You can get an attorney but you will have to pay for the attorney from your own funds.
There are agencies that can help you during this process. They are the Commission on the Status of Women; the Commission on the Status of Men:NH Legal Assistance.
It is important that you understand that these orders are effective immediately even if you disagree with the claims made against you. It is a crime to violate these orders. If you do, you will be arrested and possibly put in jail.
According to the law, the court cannot give you any information on where the other person is living or how to get in touch with her/him.
All future paperwork from the court will be mailed to you from the court by regular mail. You must keep the court informed of your current address or you may miss important information from the court about hearing dates, etc. It is not an excuse if you miss a hearing because you moved and didn't get the paperwork. The court can and will make orders against you even if you are not there.
You should also know that these orders are enforced in any state. So no matter where you go, you still have to follow these orders. New Hampshire enters there orders into a national database.
When you come to the hearing, you should be prepared to tell the judge your side of the story. When the other person is talking, you should not interrupt them. You will have a chance to speak.
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 raised in the petition. It is the responsibility of the person who filed to the petition to prove that domestic violence, within the meaning of the law, has occurred. You have the right to offer your own testimony and that of witnesses to dispute any information the petitioner gives the court. 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.
Once both sides have had the chance to talk to the judge, a final order will be made. You will get copy of this order either in court or in the mail. You must follow all the points listed in the final order. If you don't, you risk being arrested and jailed. You must not make any attempt to contact the other person by any means. This includes telephone, email or letters. You can be arrested for this if you do and you may be held in jail until brought before the court. If you think you want to make changes to the order, you must ask the court. Even if the other person says it is all right to contact them, you can still be arrested. Only the court can allow you and the other person to have contact.
After One Year
The final order is good for one year from the date it was ordered. Before that date, however, the other person can request that the order be extended for another year. If the order is extended, you can request a hearing within 30 days to tell the judge why you do not think it should be extended.
During this process, you will have to give your guns and possibly some other deadly weapons to the police. You will not be allowed to buy any guns or ammunition. This is required by state and federal law. Fifteen (15) days before the order expires, you can ask the court to return your guns and weapons by filing a form titled "Motion and Affidavit for Return of Firearms or other Deadly Weapons." The court will ask that a background check be completed to find out if you have any other pending matters in some other court or if you have been convicted of any other crimes. The other person has right to also let the court know if they do not think you should get your guns and weapons back. The court will then make an order about your guns and weapons.
Remember that these orders can be enforced in any state.