How the Process Works
Child support cases may be heard by a Child Support Hearings Officer, sometimes called a Child Support Referee. The hearings officer is a lawyer appointed by the Family Division Administrative Judge, pursuant to RSA 490-F:15. The hearings officer hears child support matters including those cases where parties are receiving or applying for services through the Division of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Services. Setting a child support matter before a hearings officer results in a shorter waiting time for a hearing date and faster processing of the case once it has been heard.
Hearings officers are authorized to conduct hearings and submit recommendations for orders on issues of paternity establishment, child support, medical support, and tax exemptions as well as registrations of court orders from other states.
Hearings may be held in a courtroom or in a conference room. Unlike a judge or a marital master, a hearings officer does not sit on the bench. Each party sits on one side of a table; the hearings officer sits at the head of the table. Just as in any other hearing, each parent will get a chance to present his/her case to the hearings officer. The court keeps a record of these hearings by sound recording either by tape or CD. After the hearing, the hearings officer makes recommendations to a judge. Just as when a marital master hears a family case, all recommendations of a hearings officer must be reviewed and approved (signed) by a judge before they become orders of the court.
Normal procedures for asking a court to reconsider an order, or for appealing an order to the NH Supreme Court, are in effect for any orders based on the recommendations of a hearings officer.