What does the Court Order cancelling all in-person hearings mean for my family matter? With the current state of the nation as it braces against COVID-19, it is clear that many families are concerned about what this means for their case in the Family Division.
On Sunday, March 29, 2020, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an Order suspending in-person Court proceedings in the Circuit Court, which is where the Family Division holds court. The Order is in effect through May 4, 2020 and/or the last day of a Declared State of Emergency.
Pursuant to the Order, the courthouse will be open only to individuals filing for emergency relief or who remain scheduled for in-person proceedings. This means that the general public will not have access to case files until the expiration of the Order.
Some types of hearings will not necessarily be suspended. These exceptions that relate to the Family Division are:
- Requests for orders of protection for domestic violence under RSA 173-B, stalking under RSA 633:3-a and juvenile abuse under RSA 169-C:7-a, and hearings on such orders. This means that if you are in fear for your safety due to a family member, someone you live with, have or had a relationship with, you still have emergency relief available to you through the Court system. Please contact 911 if you are in imminent danger. After you are in a safe location, contact our office for more information.
- Requests for child-related emergency orders in divorce/parenting cases under RSA 461-A and hearings on any emergency relief ordered. This means that if you have concerns about the immediate safety of your child, you still have emergency relief available to you through the Court system. Please contact 911 if your child is in immediate danger. Also contact our office as soon as possible to discuss the emergency relief process.
- Temporary hearings in divorce/parenting cases. If you have filed a Petition for a divorce or parenting matter, and you are scheduled for a Temporary Hearing, the Court will likely hold this hearing telephonically. This will help you get orders in place to provide some structure for your family until further Court action or alternative dispute resolution is possible.
- Hearings on the establishment or modification of child support. The Court understands that many parents are struggling with employment at this time. If you are struggling to meet your child support obligations during this time due to a change in employment status, you may be eligible for a modification of child support. Similarly, if you are struggling to pay your expenses, you may be eligible to request child support for the first time. Please contact our office as soon as possible so that we can help explore all your options.
If you think your matter falls into one of these exceptions, please contact our office as soon as possible to ensure you protect your right to relief fully. Our office is still available by phone, e-mail, Skype, and Zoom. We have been attending these hearings telephonically with our clients and making sure all of the proper documents are still filed in the format the Court is looking for.
If you have any questions about your case status or an upcoming hearing please feel free to reach out. If you or someone you know could benefit from this information, please share it! To meet with one of our experienced family attorneys, please give us a call at 603-943-5647. We are in downtown Nashua, NH and have flexible hours. We are here to help you and are happy to talk through your individual situation and what your options are moving forward.