New Hampshire Family Court Records
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What are New Hampshire Family Court Records?
New Hampshire family court records consist of all documented information that details proceedings relating to the state’s family courts. These records include depositions, witness testimonies, motions filed and court judgments among others. Under New Hampshire state laws, in particular Title VI Chapter 91-A, generally referred to as the Right to Know Law, family court records are government records and thus may be inspected by any citizen.
What is a Family Court in New Hampshire?
The New Hampshire judicial branch is a unified court system that includes an appellate court, the New Hampshire Supreme Court and two Trial Courts, the Superior Courts, which are the state’s court for jury trials, and the Circuit Courts. The Circuit Courts are further divided into three divisions, the District, Probate, and Family Divisions. In accordance with New Hampshire RSA Title LI Chapter 490-D, the Family Division of the New Hampshire judicial branch shall have general jurisdiction over all cases involving domestic and family matters heard in the state. The Family Division can be located in courthouses spread out across the state’s counties and appeals from this division are heard by the state Supreme Court.
What Cases are Heard by New Hampshire Family Courts?
In accordance with statutory law, the Family Division of the New Hampshire judicial branch typically hears cases which involve:
- Child support
- Domestic violence
- Divorce/parenting actions
- Guardianship of minors
- Abuse/neglect cases
- Children in need of services
- Termination of parental rights
- Juvenile delinquency
Note: In some of these cases, such as the issuance of emergency orders in domestic violence cases and temporary detention orders in juvenile delinquency cases, the Family Division may share concurrent jurisdiction with the other state trial courts.
How to Serve Family Court Papers in New Hampshire
Members of the public who are interested in serving family court papers in the state of New Hampshire may initiate the process by filing the following items at the appropriate court:
- A Complaint
- An Appearance Form which indicates the name, contact details and New Hampshire bar association number of the plaintiff’s legal representative
- Required filing fees
Once these items have been filed and processed, a completed summons for service is issued to the plaintiff by the court. This summons and a copy of the complaint shall then be served to the defendant in accordance with New Hampshire RSA Title LII Chapter 510.
Summons may be issued by the plaintiff. However, in some cases, such as domestic violence cases, it is the responsibility of the court to ensure that the summons and complaint are properly served to the defendant. In the state of New Hampshire, the service of process may be performed by a sheriff, a deputy sheriff, a private process server or any other legally authorized party. A fee is usually charged for this service, and the process server is required to provide the plaintiff with proof that the papers have been duly served. This proof should indicate the time the papers were served as well as the place and mode of service. It is important to note that all parties involved in the service of the process must be above the age of 17 and should not be related to a named party in the summons and complaint.
In addition to this, the court may also grant a petition for the service of process to be done by publication of a notice of the summons against the defendant in a newspaper. This usually occurs when other methods of serving court papers have proven futile.
What is Contempt of Court in Family Law in New Hampshire?
In the state of New Hampshire judicial branch, contempt of court is generally grouped into two: summary contempt proceedings and non-summary contempt proceedings.
Acts of summary contempt involve disrespectful conduct which occurs in the presence of the court. All other acts of contempt are considered non-summary. Non-summary acts of contempt are further divided into two types: Criminal Contempt and Civil Contempt. Civil contempt proceedings are typically remedial in nature and are initiated against a party that has either failed or refused to comply with an issued court order, such as the payment of court-mandated child support or alimony. On the other hand, non-summary criminal contempt proceedings are punitive in nature and are carried out with the purpose of upholding the court’s authority as well as punishing the party accused of violating a court order.
Criminal conduct proceedings are typically carried out if a party’s conduct is deemed to pose a threat to another party’s safety or if a party’s contemptuous conduct has been proven to be repetitive. Parties who wish to initiate contempt of court proceeding may do so by filing a Petition for Contempt notice with the appropriate court, which shall then review the petition and decide if the matter should proceed as a criminal or civil contempt hearing. If the court decides that the petition warrants a criminal contempt proceeding, then the matter shall be forwarded to the local prosecuting agency that has jurisdiction over the alleged act of misconduct for necessary legal actions. However, if the court determines that the matter shall be dealt with as an act of civil contempt, an order summoning the party to appear before the court and show cause why the party should not be held in contempt of court shall be issued. When issuing the summons to the responding party, the court shall also include a copy of the petition as well as a summary of potential consequences if said party is found in contempt of court. If the responding party is found in contempt, the court shall impose remedial sanctions which shall be to the benefit of the petitioning party.
Are Family Court Records Public in New Hampshire?
Yes, the majority of family court records fall under the umbrella of public records. According to the New Hampshire Right to Know Law, governmental records are defined as any information created, accepted, obtained by or on behalf of any public body or agency in the furtherance of its official function. However, some records are considered confidential and access to them is restricted. Typically, these confidential records may only be accessed by a named party in the record, a parent or legal guardian in cases involving minors, an authorized law enforcement officer or an authorized officer of the court. These records may also be accessed by interested parties who can obtain a court order authorizing access to the records, and in some cases involving minors, by obtaining written consent from the minor.
Some of these confidential records include, but are not limited to:
- Juvenile records
- Guardianship of minors case records
- Divorce records
- Department of Health and Human Services case records
How to Access Family Law Cases in New Hampshire
Interested parties who wish to access family law cases in the state of New Hampshire may do so by contacting the appropriate record custodian for the case in question.
How to Request Family Court Records in New Hampshire
The Family Division of the New Hampshire judicial branch has locations spread out across 10 counties in the state. Members of the public who wish to obtain copies of records from these courts must first determine the particular court where the case in question is domiciled. Interested parties may do this by utilizing the online directory provided by the court. Once the appropriate court has been located, interested parties may request for the required family court records either in person, by mail or through an online vendor.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
Requests for Records in Person or via Mail
The Circuit Court Clerks are the record custodians for family court records in the state of New Hampshire. Interested parties who wish to obtain records directly from the court are required to submit a written request either in person or by mail to the appropriate Circuit Clerk. Interested parties are advised to provide as much information as possible when preparing the written requests. This information typically includes the requestor’s name, details of any named parties on the required records, a case number as well as any other details of the case that can be provided. Interested parties will be required to provide a government-issued photo ID and also be required to pay a non-refundable search fee, as well as additional fees to obtain copies of the required records. These fees are calculated by the number of record searches carried out and the number of copies requested per record.
In addition to this, interested parties who wish to obtain copies of these records via this method can also complete a Records Research and Payment Form which may be submitted by mail or in person, along with any required payment, to:
New Hampshire Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attention: Central Processing Center
1 Granite Place, Suite N400
Concord, NH 03301
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Are New Hampshire Divorce Records Sealed or Public Records?
Divorce Records in the state of New Hampshire are public records and may be requested by any member of the public. However, divorce records less than 50 years old are generally considered confidential and thus, copies of these records may only be obtained by a registrant on the record or any member of the registrant’s immediate family. In the state of New Hampshire, immediate family includes a parent, child, sibling, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild, great-grandfather and a present spouse. Copies of divorce records in the state of New Hampshire may also be obtained by a registrant’s attorney, physician or any authorized representative who can prove a direct and tangible interest.
How Do I Find Divorce Records in New Hampshire?
Interested parties who wish to obtain copies of divorce records in the state of New Hampshire may do so through the state’s Division of Vital Records Administration. To obtain these records, requestors are required to complete an Application For a Certified Copy of a Vital Record. The completed application should be submitted either in person or via mail to:
New Hampshire Department of State
Division of Vital Records Administration
9 Ratification Way
Concord, NH 03301-2410
Interested parties may also obtain copies of divorce records by visiting the office of any town or city clerk in the state. Finally, interested parties may also obtain copies of divorce records directly from the New Hampshire court system by contacting the Clerk of the Superior Court or Family Division where the divorce granted. To aid members of the public who wish to obtain divorce records via this method, the New Hampshire judicial branch maintains an online directory that contains contact information as well as directions to all the courts in the state.
Requestors who wish to obtain copies of divorce records from the state courts may be required to complete a Request for Certified Copy of Divorce Decree or Vital Statistics Form. As mentioned earlier, copies of divorce records for divorces less than 50 years from the date of the request may only be obtained by parties who can demonstrate a direct and tangible interest in the record. Requestors will be required to provide a valid government-issued photo ID before obtaining these records. It should be noted that the state of New Hampshire charges a non-refundable search fee for any vital record requested. This fee is exclusive of any fees accrued by obtaining copies of these divorce records.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.