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How to File a Restraining Order in New Hampshire

Restraining orders, or protective orders, are ordered by courts upon the request of a person who feels legitimately threatened by the actions of another person. Orders of protection are typically used to protect the victims of domestic violence or stalking, requiring the person named in the order to avoid contact and remain a specific distance away from the individual seeking the order.

In New Hampshire, the maximum duration of the order is one year--with the potential to be extended under certain circumstances. Violation of a restraining order is considered a Class A misdemeanor, while subsequent violations often are treated as felonies.

The following is a guideline how to file a restraining order in New Hampshire:

Step 1: Obtain the Required Forms

To begin your case, you must fill out the necessary forms for a restraining order. You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse in the county or district where you reside or where the abuser lives. Additionally, you can download the forms first and complete them at home or with legal assistance.

Step 2: Carefully Complete the Forms

On the complaint, you will be considered the "plaintiff," while the abuser will be the "defendant." In the box provided for explaining your reason to request a protective order, describe the most recent incidents of violence (although your petition can include prior incidents of abuse), using specific language (e.g. hitting, slapping, pushing, choking, threatening, etc.) which fits your situation. Include details and dates, whenever possible. Clerks and victim's advocates can show you which boxes to fill in; however, they are not able to help you write your response.

Step 3: A Judge Will Review Your Petition

The clerk will turn over your completed forms to a judge, or marital master, while you wait for a response. The judge will look at your petition and decide if there is enough immediate danger to issue a temporary order. The judge may ask you questions, or may make a decision based only on your petition. If your order is granted, you will receive a copy of it from the clerk. Furthermore, the judge will also schedule a court hearing date for your final protective order.

Step 4: Service of Process

The abuser needs to be "served" with your petition and the notice of the hearing date, along with your temporary restraining order (if you received one from the judge or master). You do not have to pay a fee to have law enforcement serve the abuser.

Step 5: The Final Hearing

The judge will hold a hearing within 30 days of the date you filed your petition but the defendant has the right to request a hearing within 5 days.

Keep in mind, New Hampshire law permits a judge to consider any evidence that he or she believes is relevant and important. The judge is not bound by technical rules of evidence in a protective order hearing, which applies in other court hearings and trials.

If you fail to attend the court hearing, your temporary order will expire (if you were granted one). If the defendant fails to attend, the judge may still grant you a restraining order, or he or she may reschedule the hearing. If you are not able to make the scheduled time, you must contact the court to request that your case be "continued," but there is a possibility that the judge may deny it.

The most effective way to obtain your desired protective order is to retain experienced legal services from a qualified family law attorney as soon as possible to effectively file your request for restraining order as close in time to the incident(s) of abuse. If you are interested in legal help to file your claim in New Hampshire, contact our Manchester family law attorney at Sekella Law, PLLC today.

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