What is domestic violence?

New Hampshire defines domestic violence as the commission or attempted commission of one or more of the following:

  1. assault or reckless conduct;
  2. placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury by physical menace or threats;
  3. sexual assault;
  4. kidnapping, criminal restraint, or false imprisonment;
  5. destruction of property;
  6. unauthorized entry onto a person’s property;
  7. repeated communication with the purpose to annoy or alarm;
  8. cruelty to animals (NH RSA 173-B:1, I).

Do domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Yes. New Hampshire domestic violence law applies to abuse between spouses and ex-spouses, people who are or were residing in the same household, and people who have or have had a sexual or romantic relationship (NH RSA 173-B:1, II).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

If a partner or member of your family or household has been abusive, you can file for a protective order in court. New Hampshire issues three kinds of protective orders:

Temporary (emergency) ex parte protective orders issued via telephone. If you are in immediate danger of abuse and no court is open, you may get an emergency protective order by contacting the nearest police department. A police officer can help you fill out the forms and will contact a judge by telephone. If the judge believes you are in imminent danger, they will grant you an order that will last until the close of the next business day that the court is open. For the protective order to remain in effect, you must go to the nearest District, Family or Superior Court to ask for a new protective order.

Temporary ex parte protective orders issued in court. If the courts are open, you can file for a protective order from the District Court or Superior Court where you or the abuser lives, or, if you have fled your home, the court closest to where you fled. If you live in Rockingham County or Grafton County, you must go to the Family Division Court. If the judge believes there is an immediate danger of abuse, they will order a temporary ex parte order until you can have a full hearing on the order. A copy of the protective order will be sent to the Department of Safety, and the State Police must make information regarding the protective order available to your local police and Sheriff. The local police will promptly serve your abuser with a copy of the temporary protective order. There is no charge for this service, and the orders are in effect state-wide in New Hampshire.

A full hearing will be held within 30 days of when you filed your petition, or within 10 days of when your petition is served on your abuser, whichever is later (NH RSA 173-B:3, VII(a)). The abuser may also ask for a hearing within 3 to 5 days, which you must attend (NH RSA 173-B:4, I).

Final protective orders. A final protective order can only be issued after a court hearing. You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. It is a good idea to seek out a lawyer if you think custody or child support will be disputed, or if you have been severely injured or expect an injury to last a long time. A final order can last for up to one year, and can be extended (NH RSA 173-B:5, VI).

What does a protective order do?

Depending on the circumstances, a protective order may compel your abuser to do any number of the following:

  • refrain from abusing you further;
  • refrain from contacting you;
  • refrain from destroying or damaging property belong to you;
  • move out of your home, if they live with you;
  • stay away from your residence, workplace, or school, or any other place regularly visited by you or your family;
  • stay away from any animal you own;
  • relinquish custody of any minor children;
  • provide you temporary financial support;
  • surrender firearms.

Where can I go to get help?

If you cannot afford a lawyer, a domestic violence program in your area may be able to refer you to a lawyer who will do the case for free.  The DOVE (Domestic Violence Emergency) Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association can provide referrals. Contact them at 1-866-644-3574, or https://www.nhbar.org/for-the-public/free-legal-services.asp.

You might also contact the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, 1-866-644-374 (domestic violence) or 1-800-277-5570 (sexual assault).

Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

Yes. Evidence that a parent has abused or is currently abusing their child or partner is evidence that said parent is not acting in the best interests of the child. Furthermore, a court will not allow parents to develop their own parenting plan when there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse (NH RSA 461-A:2, I(c)).