What is the First Appearance Hearing?
The First Appearance Hearing, otherwise known as “First Appearance” is the first official hearing and is required in all cases involving children whether it be a divorce proceeding, child support matter, or parenting issue. First Appearance is a unique opportunity where you will go to the Court and hear from either a Family Court Judge or Marital Master about what to expect during your proceeding. It also provides you with the benefit of asking the Judge or the Marital Master questions you may have about the Court process. You will attend First Appearance with other individuals who have filed similar cases. This is not a time to present facts about your case to the Court but rather an opportunity to hear how the process works.
If you are represented by counsel, Attorneys are not required to attend First Appearance with you and in most instances they do not. However, if for any reason you feel that you would like an Attorney to attend with you, or special circumstances exist where you feel it is necessary for an Attorney to attend First Appearance with you, please call our office or visit our website to setup a consultation today.
What Happens at First Appearance?
At the First Appearance, after the Judge or Marital Master has explained to you the Court process, you and the opposing party in your matter will meet with a Court employee known as the Case Worker. The Case Worker typically works specifically in family law matters and will assist you in scheduling Court ordered mediation. The Case Worker will ask whether or not you and the opposing party have reached an agreement and wish to meet with them to finalize that agreement, or if you would rather go straight to mediation.
If you are represented by an Attorney, you will most likely be required to attend mediation. The Court requires that almost all parties try and work their differences out with a mediator before they will allow you to come before a Judge. Should you go to mediation and be unsuccessful, then you will be scheduled to go before the Judge and have the Judge make orders regarding your facts.
What Should You Bring to First Appearance?
When you arrive to First Appearance, the Case Worker or Bailiff will ask if you have attended the mandatory Child Impact Seminar. If you have not already, it is highly recommend that you try to attend the Child Impact Seminar prior to the First Appearance. The Court should have received a copy of your Certificate of Completion of the Child Impact Seminar by the First Appearance if you have completed the Child Impact Seminar. Be prepared to provide the Court with a copy of your Certificate of Completion as a backup plan.
Additionally, the Court may expect that you have a fully executed Financial Affidavit with you at the First Appearance. If you have not filled out a Financial Affidavit or if you are unsure what a Financial Affidavit is, you can find one on the Court’s website. Please keep in mind that this document is being provided to the Court and you are swearing under oath that everything contained in it is one hundred percent accurate to the best of your knowledge.
It is also important to make child care arrangements prior to attending First Appearance because the Court will not provide this for you, and children are not allowed to attend with you.
If you are in need of legal services in connection with a parenting case or divorce case, we can help. Please feel free to call us in Nashua at (603) 943-5647 or click here and we will be happy to set up a consultation to help you come up with an action plan. Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date with our latest blogs and posts.