Nationwide, domestic violence is an enormous public safety problem, as it is in New Hampshire. Each year in our state, over 5,700 victims of domestic violence seek assistance from crisis centers, and it is currently the leading cause of homicide in the state. Recognizing the need to proactively address this critical social problem, the State of New Hampshire has made a strong commitment to work to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in our society and to meet the needs of those most affected.
Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse used by one partner in a relationship to maintain power and control over the other partner. It occurs in families from all economic, educational, racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Ninety-five percent of the victims of spousal abuse are women, and it is estimated that three to four million women are beaten each year in our country. Violence in one generation encourages violence in the next generation, creating a cycle of abuse. Almost two-thirds of the men who abuse their partners witnessed abuse or were abused as children, and witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality for males.
NH COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
P.O. Box 353, Concord, NH 03302-0353 (603) 224-8893 (Office)
The N.H. Coalition is comprised of 14 programs throughout the state that provide services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The services are free, confidential, and available to all victims regardless of age, race, religion, sexual preference, class, or physical ability. The services include:
- 24-hour crisis line
- Emergency shelter and transportation
- Legal advocacy in obtaining restraining orders against abusers
- Hospital and court accompaniment for rape survivors
- Information about and help in obtaining public assistance
24-Hour Confidential Hotline: 603-994-SAFE (7233)
20 International Dr.
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Office/ Walk-in Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
Restraining orders may be obtained at any district or superior court:
Portsmouth District Court
111 Parrott Avenue
Portsmouth, NH 03801-4490
Phone : (603) 431-2192
Hours : Monday - Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm
Below is an outline of what will happen once you decide to ask a court for a restraining order, or if you have been served with a restraining order. If you have any questions, you should contact the court or an attorney or a local crisis center .
For someone who wants to ask the court for an order of protection:
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. ( Find Your Court) . 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.
There are many agencies that can help you during this difficult time including The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence ; NH Legal Assistance ; New Hampshire Women's Foundation. You should contact them if you have questions about what to do next. They may be able to help you apply for a protection orders and they can even help with a place to live and how to make a safety plan. You may also be able to get legal help from the DOVE program. You should call 866-644-3574 for this information.
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 :
- Assault or reckless conduct as defined under RSA 631:1 through RSA 631:3
- Criminal threatening as defined under RSA 631:4
- Sexual assault as defined under RSA 632-A:2 through RSA 632-A:5
- Interference with freedom as defined under RSA 633
- Stalking as defined under RSA 633:3-a
- Destruction of property as defined under RSA 634:1 and RSA 634:2
- Unauthorized entry as defined under RSA 635:1 and RSA 635:2
- Harassment as defined under RSA 644:4
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.
For someone who has been served with a protective order:
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.
For someone who has a protective order from another state:
If you have a valid restraining order that is from another state, it is still valid in New Hampshire. That means that the police can arrest an individual for violating the conditions of an order that was made in any other state.
If you have an order, you should register it in the nearest court (Find Your Court) although this is not required for the order to be enforced. You can use a form titled "Foreign Protective Order Affidavit" to register a restraining order from another state in New Hampshire.
Under New Hampshire law, if the other person violates the protective order, they may be arrested by the police and charged with a crime. The State, through the police and prosecutor, will handle these cases. You may be a witness in the state's case against the other person. The other person may be released on bail with conditions that there is no contact with you. If you have questions about this process, you should contact the police department or local crisis center.
NH RSA 631:2-b Domestic Violence Law
NH RSA 173-B: Protection of Persons from Domestic Violence
New Hampshire laws on domestic violence.
NH District Court Domestic Violence Case Protocols
New Hampshire District Courts comprehensive guide to the domestic violence courts process, including information on restraining orders.
A Safe Place
Provides many services to victims of domestic violence, including:
- 24 Hour Crisis Phone Line
- Emergency Shelter
- Legal Advocacy
- Support Groups
- Educational Programs
New Hampshire Legal Assistance
New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) is a non-profit law firm offering legal services in civil matters to seniors and eligible low-income persons. NHLA provides high quality legal services to vulnerable low-income people, ranging from simple legal information and advice to vigorous and thorough representation in all of New Hampshire's courts and before many of the local, state and federal agencies which play large roles in the lives of low-income people. In providing legal services to the poor, NHLA helps balance the scales of justice for all citizens.
New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Founded in 1977, the Coalition is an umbrella organization for a statewide network of 14 independent member programs committed to ending domestic and sexual violence.