By Sharon Perreault, Family-District Court Service Center Case Manager
I am pleased to report that the District Court & Family Division Service Center has been successfully up and running since June and is reaching more and more people every day. We have been contacted by people all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, with the vast majority being from New Hampshire. I am finding that our stats are growing every month and this is just with the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers only being listed on the Judicial Branch website. In October we received 227 calls and e-mails. So far, the greatest number of inquiries relate to marital and small claims actions.
Sharon Perreault, Family-District Court Service Center Case Manager
The e-mails and telephone calls include questions regarding all aspects of family matters as well as the standard and not so standard district court questions. I also receive questions regarding potential "scam" e-mails, what a legal term means, warranty problems, even how to get a marriage license and who can perform a marriage ceremony to list a few. All of which I answer.
The most common questions I receive are what forms do I need to start a divorce; parenting petition; child support action, guardianship, or grandparent visitation. There are a variety of small claim questions, with the most common one being, "how do I start a small claim case?"
I have compiled a fairly comprehensive list of New Hampshire community resources which provide a broad range of services to our communities including services related to domestic violence protection, child support, and pro bono legal service. Depending on the questions being asked, after I have answered court related questions I will often refer callers to one or more community resource agencies for further assistance with a particular need.
Recently a caller needed information about domestic violence protection. She later called to let me know she was at the court, had filed her DV petition and was waiting for the judge's ruling. I thanked her for calling and told her that I had been thinking about her and was hoping everything had worked out. She replied "I thought you would be, that's why I called". I feel we have succeeded in helping people understand the court process and resolve their problems every time I provide information to someone in response to a call or e-mail. I know we are succeeding when I hear the relief in someone's voice and when I receive heart-felt calls and e-mails thanking me for providing information that helped someone find the court or other community resource they needed. Based on my first 6 months on the job, I believe that the service center has succeeded in improving access to the courts by providing 24 hour e-mail access and a toll-free number which are accessible to everyone.