e-filing is now available for small claims cases that started electronically (not in paper) at ALL District Division locations
How to file suit and complete Form.
1. Self-represented litigants can log into TurboCourt to initiate a claim. The program will guide you through the process of completing the Small Claim Complaint and all required forms by asking you a series of questions throughout an interview. After the claim is completed, the complaint and related forms will be submitted electronically to the court. After the claim is accepted by the court, the court will electronically deliver a copy of the complaint to the Plaintiff. If you are filing the small claim on behalf of a business, please refer to the section entitled "Representation of Certain Corporations, Partnerships and Trusts." If you are filing the claim on behalf of another individual, the court will require a valid Power of Attorney before the claim will be accepted. Circuit Court District Division Rule 1.3 requires a statement which outlines the number of times the person filing has appeared in court on behalf of another as well as other information. Failure to provide the proper documentation will result in the claim being dismissed.
The person being sued is the Defendant. You will be prompted during the interview to enter in the exact name, physical and mailing address and zip code for the Defendant. NOTE: If suing a corporation, the name and address of the corporate officer or the name and address of the registered agent must be provided. This information is available through the Secretary of State's Office at (603) 271-3246.
Attorneys can access the Small Claim Complaint, Military Service Statement and other forms by clicking on the "Forms" link to the right. Attorneys can then log into File & Serve to initiate a new case and to upload and electronically file their completed forms with the court.
To find which court covers your particular town, please click on the "Find Your Court" link to the right.
Please see the sample Small Claim Complaint below.
2. If the Military Service Statement is not filed, the court will not be able to issue a judgment if the Defendant fails to respond to the claim (defaults).
3. The filing fee is $90.00 if the claim does not exceed $5,000.00. If the claim exceeds $5,000.00, the filing fee is $145.00. Additional processing fees may be assessed pursuant to court rules.
4. After the claim is electronically filed and accepted by the court, court personnel will send the Defendant a copy of the complaint by mail.
5. Within thirty (30) days of this mailing date, a hearing to contest the claim may be requested by the Defendant. When the hearing date has been scheduled, both parties will be notified of this hearing date. All cases will be scheduled for a Pretrial Hearing. If the amount of the claim exceeds $5,000.00, the claim is subject to mandatory mediation. The parties may mediate on the date of the Pretrial Hearing. Mediation is mandatory for claims in excess of $5,000.00 and the failure to appear for a mandatory mediation session may be considered a default and may result in a judgment against the Defendant or dismissal of the Plaintiff's claim. In addition, if the Defendant has filed a counterclaim, a failure to appear may result in a judgment against the Plaintiff on the Defendant's counterclaim.
6. If the Defendant fails to reply to the claim or to request a hearing, the court may issue a default judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. If the claim is returned to the court as undeliverable, the court will notify the Plaintiff by sending a Notice of Small Claim Returned. The Plaintiff may then select second mail service at an alternate address, personal service by Sheriff or request not to proceed. For Defendants who reside out of state, reference is made to RSA 510:4. Service upon out of state Defendants is not accomplished simply by forwarding the claim to an out of state sheriff. Rather, it is effected by service upon the New Hampshire Secretary of State, a registered mailing to the Defendant, and an affidavit filed with the court. The timing of these events is very important as held by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the case of Impact Foods Sales, Inc. vs. Carl Evans d/b/a Warehouse Club Distributing Company. If the Defendant fails to respond after being served by the sheriff, the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. If the court issues a default judgment, the parties will be notified. This notice will be sent to both parties and the defendant will have thirty (30) days to pay the claim in full.
7. Should the Defendant wish to file a counterclaim, it should be filed as soon as possible once the claim is received. A filing fee of $80.00 will be required to file a counterclaim if the counterclaim does not exceed $5,000.00. A filing fee of $135.00 will be required to file a counterclaim in excess of $5,000.00.
8. If the claim exceeds $1500.00, the Defendant may request a trial by jury. The Defendant will be required to check the appropriate box on the Response and electronically file it with the court on/before the "return date" along with the transfer fee. This fee is the responsibility of the Defendant.
Representation of Certain Corporations, Partnerships Limited Liability Companies and Trusts.
- To the extent not inconsistent with court rules or as otherwise permitted by the court, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and trusts may be represented in any small claims action before a circuit court by an officer, employee, partner, owner or trustee who presents written authorization as follows:
- for a corporation, a resolution adopted by the board of directors.
- for a partnership, an authorization signed by all general partners.
- for a trust, an authorization signed by all trustees.
- for a limited liability company, an authorization signed by all members.
- The requirement for written authorization in paragraph one shall be met by a document signed by a duly authorized representative of the organization and containing a certificate of acknowledgement to the signature, authorizing the representation by a particular individual in a particular matter, and acknowledging that the organization shall be bound by any agreement entered into by such individual or any order of the court in the matter. Any such written authorization shall be presented to the court under oath by the representative. You may choose to file an Authorization under RSA 503:11 form which is located on the court’s web site.
For further information, please refer to RSA 503:11
- In addition to the documentation listed above, the court will also require a statement pursuant to Circuit Court District Division Rule 1.3. Self-represented litigants will be guided through completing this form in TurboCourt.
- The Court may deny representation by any individual it deems to be improper, inappropriate or unable to adequately represent the interests of the organization.
If the case is settled at any time, the Plaintiff must so notify the court in writing.
When a hearing is requested.
- The court will schedule a Pretrial Hearing on Small Claim cases. Mediators will be at the courthouse on the day of the Pretrial Hearing. On cases that are subject to mandatory mediation (claims in excess of $5000), you will mediate your case on the day of the Pretrial Hearing. On cases where mediation is voluntary, you will have the opportunity to mediate your case on that day. If your case is settled in mediation, the agreement will be submitted to the Court for approval. You will electronically receive the Court’s Order on your Agreement. If mediation is not successful, the Court will hold the Pretrial Hearing and a Hearing on the Merits will be scheduled at a later time.
- In some instances, the Hearing on the Merits may be heard on the date of the Pretrial Hearing.
- Gather all papers or documents that might have something to do with the case and take them to court. This is the only opportunity to present the case in district division.
- Arrange to bring any witnesses to the hearing on the merits, when scheduled.
- The judge will hear both sides of the case and make a decision.
- If the Defendant does not appear for the hearing, the Plaintiff may be granted judgment by default.
- If the Plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the case will be dismissed.
- If either party fails to appear for a mandatory mediation session (again, mediation is mandatory only for claims in excess of $5,000.00) then the party who fails to appear may be defaulted. This means that the Defendant may have a judgment issued against him/her or a Plaintiff may have the case dismissed and, should the Defendant also have filed a counterclaim, may have a judgment issued on the counterclaim.
Either party can appeal the decision of the case, on issues of law only, by filing a notice of appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. There is a fee for this process, and the appealing party should contact that court directly.
What if there is no payment?
- If the judgment is for the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff moves to the collection process. The Defendant may pay voluntarily. If the Defendant has no money or property, or is out of state, the Plaintiff may have difficulty collecting the judgment.
- After thirty days from the date of the written decision, the Plaintiff may request a payment hearing by filing a Motion for Periodic Payments. A fee of $25.00 will be charged to file this document. The required form must be completed and electronically filed with the court along with the filing fee. If your case was not filed electronically, the Motion for Periodic Payments may be filed with the court in paper otherwise electronic filing is mandatory. If there is a service contact for the Defendant, the Plaintiff must e-serve the Defendant with a copy of the Motion for Periodic Payments. If there is no service contact for the Defendant, or if the case was not filed electronically, the Plaintiff must either mail or hand deliver a copy of the Motion for Periodic Payments to the Defendant. The court will schedule a hearing on this request and electronically deliver the paperwork to the Plaintiff, so that the Plaintiff may arrange to have the Defendant served, or, if the case was not filed electronically, the court will mail the service paperwork to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff must carefully follow the instructions which will accompany this form. If the Defendant is not served with notice of the hearing, the Plaintiff will have to request rescheduling. There is a $25.00 fee required for the court to reissue orders of notice when a hearing must be rescheduled.
- The Defendant may electronically file a Statement of Assets and Liabilities prior to the Payment Hearing, or may be required to complete the Statement of Assets and Liabilities at the time of the Payment Hearing, if it was not electronically filed prior to the hearing. It is the burden of the Plaintiff to establish that the Defendant has an ability to pay the judgment.
- The judge may order the Defendant to pay a lump sum, or make weekly or monthly payments depending on the Defendant’s financial situation.
- If the Defendant fails to appear at this hearing and proper service has been made, the Plaintiff may request that a civil arrest warrant be issued. The Defendant’s date of birth is required on civil arrest warrants. If the Defendant’s date of birth has not already been provided to the court for the case, the Plaintiff must provide the court with that information. After issuance, the court will send the warrant to the Sheriff’s Department with jurisdiction over the town or city where the Defendant resides, for service. The court is unable to issue Orders of Arrest for an out of state Defendant.
- If the Court issues an Order for Payments and the Defendant fails to comply, the Plaintiff may choose to file a "Motion for Contempt for Non Compliance with Payment Order",for which there is no filing fee and which seeks to have the Defendant held in contempt. For cases which were not filed electronically this form has been called an “Affidavit of Non-Compliance.” The court will issue an "order of notice" for a hearing, which is e-delivered to the Plaintiff for proper service upon the Defendant.
- 7. A judgment is good for twenty years, provided periodic review of the matter is sought no less than every two years.
- 8. A Plaintiff who has obtained a judgment against a Defendant, or a Defendant who has obtained a judgment against a Plaintiff on a counterclaim, may also seek to “attach,” or place a lien, on real estate owned by the other. There are a few different ways in which to do this:
- Petition to Attach with Notice – the successful party may file a Petition to Attach with Notice which must be sent to the court and served upon the other party. As this form has been designed for attachments sought before a judgment is awarded, it may be easier for the party to file a motion as indicated in #5 below. If the other party objects, the court will schedule a hearing.
- Petition to Attach without Notice – also referred to as an “ex parte” attachment, if the successful party can establish that the other party should not receive notice of a request to attach real estate due to an extraordinary circumstance, the Petition to Attach may be filed without notice. If the court agrees the attachment may be granted prior to the other party being notified. If the other party objects, a hearing will be scheduled within 14 days.
- Should the Court permit the attachment, court staff will prepare a document called a Writ of Attachment. This document is "served" by the sheriff upon the Registry of Deeds in the county where the Defendant's property is located and on the Defendant. It is the Plaintiff's burden to see to it that the Writ of Attachment is served upon the Registry of Deeds, this is not done by the court. There will also be a cost for the sheriff to serve the Writ of Attachment and there may be additional costs at the Registry of Deeds.
- If an attachment is made, it is equally important that the Plaintiff "discharge" or release the attachment if the Defendant pays the judgment. The Plaintiff must also see to it that the attachment is released if the parties reach some other agreement to pay the judgment Court staff does not take care of this release nor does the court have a form for this. Parties may wish to consult either with an attorney for assistance or perhaps with the local Registry of Deeds for a form or simply a format for this discharge/release of the attachment.
- Motion – the successful party may also file a motion with the court seeking a post judgment attachment. A copy must be sent to the other party. If the other party objects, the court may schedule the matter for a hearing. A certified copy of the order must then be recorded in the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located. The party obtaining the order must do this and will be charged a fee by the Registry of Deeds.
- Certified Copy of Judgment – in small claims cases, a judgment may be secured with real estate by recording a certified copy of the judgment, obtained at the clerk’s office, with the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located. The successful party must do this and there will be fees associated with recording.
- As with the Petitions to Attach, if the successful party obtains a court order by filing a motion OR records a certified copy of the judgment, when the judgment is paid in full or “satisfied” that party MUST discharge the attachment. Failure to do so may result in penalties. In addition, if the party responsible for discharging the attachment fails to do so the other party may seek court intervention.