This section of the Judicial Branch website is intended to provide objective answers to questions frequently asked by our citizens about the court system. Nothing on these pages should be considered legal advice and none of the information is intended to take the place of legal counsel.
Click on the category below that relates to your question. Contact the Communications Office if you cant find the answer you need, or if you think we should add something to the site.
Q: Where do I go to legally adopt a child?
A: Adoptions are primarily processed by the Probate Division, however Family Division processes adoptions related to certain kinds of cases already in that court. To begin the process, call the Probate Division register's office or the Family Division in the county where you live. To find the right court for you, go to Court Locations.
Q: How do I adopt my stepchild?
A: You start by getting in touch with the Probate Division in the county where you live.
Q: Can I see my adoption records?
A: All adoption files are sealed. The release of information from an adoption file may be made only upon written request, granted by the court. Court staff, in Probate or Family Division, can provide a petition/motion form (NHJB-2128-P, NHJB-2201-DFP) to request the information. They are also available on the website.
The petition, or motions, must include such things as the requesting party's name, mailing address and relationship to the adoption; the information being requested from the file; any information known by the requesting party concerning the adoption; and the reason the information is being requested.
Q: How can I find a lawyer?
A: In New Hampshire all attorneys are required to be members of the New Hampshire Bar Association, 112 Pleasant St., Concord, 03301. You can call the Bar's Lawyer Referral Service at 603-229-0002 or check the NH Bar website for further information at www.nhbar.org. The court system does not refer citizens to lawyers and its staff is prohibited from making legal referrals.
Check out the Guide to Legal Services Programs for information on telephone numbers and website addresses for groups that address numerous legal issues. You can also go to the Access to Justice Commission website for more information.
The Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102; Concord NH 03301, Phone: (603) 224-5828, can tell you whether there have been any complaints filed against a lawyer.
Q: Can I hire a lawyer to handle just a part of my case?
A: Yes. This is sometimes referred to as "unbundled legal services" or "limited scope representation". You may choose to hire a lawyer to handle part of your case, such as drafting a motion, reviewing an agreement or attending one specific hearing, rather than the entire matter.
Q: What if I need a lawyer and cannot afford to hire one?
A: You can find information about free or low cost lawyers at:http://www.courts.state.nh.us/selfhelp/legal_assistance.htm
Q: Do I need to have a lawyer to come to court?
A: You have a right to represent yourself at court. However, you should check the Self-Help Center and carefully consider whether you would benefit from legal representation. Depending on the complexity of your claim, you might want to seek legal advice. Persons who represent themselves in court are sometimes referred to as "pro se" litigants, from the Latin meaning "in his own behalf"or “self represented” litigants.
Q: Why cant the court staff tell me what to do in my case? Its not that complicated!
A: Our staff can provide you with information about the court process, or provide you with forms, but they are prohibited from giving legal advice to any party in a case.
The reasoning behind that rule is that, in order to insure fair and equal access to the judicial system for all of our citizens, the court staff has to remain completely neutral to all sides in a case. They must refrain from offering advise to any party, no matter how uncomplicated it may seem.
Q: What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
A: There are ways to resolve disputes without having to appear before a judge in a courtroom, which can save time and expense. For more information read about the Office of Mediation and Arbitration.
Q: How do I file an appeal?
Some appeals from decisions in the Circuit Court District Division are brought to the Superior Court; others are brought directly to the Supreme Court. It is important to determine where to file your appeal. Appeals from convictions, jury verdicts and decisions by a judge in the Superior Court are brought to the Supreme Court. Appeals from administrative agencies are also handled in the Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Appeals FAQ for more information.
Bankruptcy claims are handled in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court:
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Warren B. Rudman United States Courthouse
55 Pleasant Street, Room 200
Concord, New Hampshire
See Bar Exam.
Where do I get a copy of my birth certificate?
The Division of Vital Records, 71 S. Fruit St., Concord, NH 03301. The Division of Vital Records website is http://sos.nh.gov/vital_records.aspx. You can also get a birth certificate from the town clerk or the city or town where the birth occurred.
New Hampshire records have restricted access. Therefore one has to demonstrate direct or tangible interest in the information.
Q: What do I do if I am not receiving court ordered child support payments?
A: Begin by contacting the NH Division of Child Support Services, Customer Services Unit at either 1-800-852-3345 x 4427 or 603-271-4427 to learn about the services they can provide. Information about their services is also available on the Division of Child Support's website at www.dhhs.state.nh.us, click on "Child Support" in the Most Requested section. or contact the Trial Court Information Center at
1-855-212-1234 for calls from US or Canada (Calls from outside US or Canada call 603-415-0162)
Q: What should I do if I think the judge acted improperly in my case?
A: You should discuss the matter with your lawyer if you have one. Even if you do not have a lawyer, complaints about a judge can be filed with the Judicial Conduct Committee. See the Judicial Conduct Committee website for details.
Q: Who can I talk to if I think the court staff did not act properly in my case?
A: Speak directly to the clerk of the court. Click here to find your court and clerk.
Q: Why cant the staff tell me what to do in my case?
A: Court staff are not permitted to give legal advice to either party in a case. They can provide you with information about the process but they cant tell you what to do.
Q: How do I figure out which court to go to?
A: The Judicial Branch includes the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court has three divisions: the District Division, the Probate Division and the Family Division. Cases are handled as follows:
The Supreme Court handles civil, criminal and juvenile appeals and matters involving administrative agencies. It also handles some original petitions, such as a writ of habeaus corpus filed by an inmate seeking release from prison.
The Superior Court has jurisdiction over a wide variety of cases, including criminal, and civil cases, and provides the only forum in this state for trial by jury.
The Circuit Court Probate Division has jurisdiction over trusts, wills and estates, adoptions, termination of parental rights, guardianships, equity matters, name changes and involuntary commitments.
The Circuit Court District Division have jurisdiction over misdemeanor and violation level criminal offenses, small claims, landlord/tenant matters, stalking cases and civil cases which do not exceed $25,000. In addition, a party may go to a District Division to obtain an emergency order of protection in a domestic violence matter. Some District Divisions also handle juvenile matters and hearings in domestic violence matters; however in counties where the Family Division has been instituted that court would not address those issues. Lastly the District Divisions handle appeals of gun permit denials, land use violations and replevin. In some matters the jurisdiction of the District Division is concurrent with the Superior Court, meaning that a party could go to either.
The Circuit Court Family Division jurisdiction includes divorce, parenting disputes, child support, domestic violence, guardianships, termination of parental rights, abuse and neglect cases, children in need of supervision, delinquencies, and some adoptions.
Q: Can I change my court date over the telephone?
A: Generally, no. Such requests should be submitted to the court in writing. You should note that the other party to the case has the right to object to a change in the court date.
Q: Do I have to pay a fee to file a lawsuit in court?
A: Yes, but a party can file a motion to have the court waive the fee because of exceptional circumstances.
Filing fees vary depending on the type of case being filed. For the schedule of Supreme Court fees, go to Rule 49: For Superior Court go to Rule 169: For Circuit Court District Division go to Rule 3.3; for Circuit Court Probate Division Rule 169. For Circuit Court Family Division go to www.courts.state.nh.us/fdpp/filing_fees.pdf
Q: What hours are the courts open?
A: The Supreme Court is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Superior and Circuit Court hours, are 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To locate the court nearest you click on Find Your Court. It is a good idea to check the judicial branch website at www.courts.state.nh.us where, in the event of emergency, notice of any court closures will be posted.
Q: How do I get a copy of documents in a case file?
A: Requests for court records must be in writing and may involve the payment of a fee. For the amount of the fee go here. Court files are a matter of public record and are available for inspection at the Clerk’s office. The court will charge for copies.
Each division of court has a set of rules that govern its procedure. Click Court Rules to view in full.
Q: How can I check to if someone has a criminal record or get proof that I dont have a criminal record?
A: For Information on obtaining criminal records see the NH Department of Safety, Division of State Police.
There is no central database available to the public to check a persons criminal record. The Division of State Police Central Repository for Criminal Records at 33 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301, (271-2538), will provide an official record provided that the individual subject to the background check has signed a "Criminal Record Release Authorization Form" and shown a picture ID.
Employers or others can download the authorization form at http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/ and mail it in. The authorization form must be signed by the person who is subject to the background check and notarized before the record will be released.
A: See the Annulment of Criminal Records checklist
Q: Is there a new law covering annulments?
A: RSA 651:5 governing the annulment of criminal records has been amended by the New Hampshire Legislature. The amended statute became effective on January 1, 2013. Any petition to annul criminal records that is GRANTED on or after January 1, 2013 will be governed by the amended statute.
A: See the Impaired Driver Program at the NH Department of Health and Human Services for more information.
Q: How can I get an official copy of a death certificate?
A: You may call or write the Division of Vital Records, 71 S, Fruit St. Concord, NH 03301, at (603) 271-4650. Hours: M-F 8-3:30 p.m. The fee is $15. If you pay by credit card ($23.50), you can place your order over the telephone and the death certificate will be sent out in 7-10 business days. Visit the Division of Vital Records website.
A death certificate can also be obtained from the town or the city where the death occurred.
New Hampshire records have restricted access see RSA 126:14. One has to demonstrate direct or tangible interest in the information.
Q: Where can I get information and forms about divorce and other domestic relations issues?
A: Contact the Trial Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234 (Callers from outside the US or Canada please call 603-415-0162).
Q: I was divorced in another state and my spouse is not complying with the child support payments that were ordered by the judge in that state. How do I get that order enforced, now that I live in New Hampshire?
A: For information about child support, contact the Division of Child Support Services at 1-800-852-3345 ext 4427 or 271-4427. For additional information you can call the Trial Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234 (Callers from outside the US or Canada please call 603-415-0162).
Q: What is the Child Impact Program?
A: The Child Impact Program (referred to as CIP) is a four hour seminar/education program that helps parents deal with the negative effects of divorce on their children. It is required by law for parents in divorce and parenting cases with children under 18 years of age, with some exceptions (see RSA 458:D-8 regarding CIP exemption requests http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XLIII/458-D/458-D-8.htm ). For additional information you can go to the Family Division. There is a fee for the seminar. If you cannot afford the fee you can ask the court or the CIP provider to waive or reduce the fee. Fee waiver request forms are available at the Family Division forms page.
Q: When do I take the Child Impact Program seminar?
A: Parents are expected to complete or register for CIP prior to their first appearance at court.
Q: What should I do if I am concerned for my safety or the safety of my children?
A: There are two ways to get protection for yourself and your children. Go to the police department or come to the court-either the Family Division or District Division where you live--and ask for a domestic violence petition. To find the district or superior court location in your town, visit our Find Your Court page or look up your court by Town A-L or Town M-Z. If you are unable to file an emergency petition at court during regular court hours, you may file it at the police department located closest to you.
To learn about other resources, including legal help or referrals, visit the website of the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence or call your local crisis center.
Q: Which Court do I contact for such issues as Divorce, Child Support, or Domestic Violence Complaints?
A: That depends on where you live. Cases are assigned to court locations based on where the parties involved live.
Family Division cases include divorce/parenting action, child support, domestic violence petitions, guardianship of minors, termination of parental rights, abuse/neglect cases, children in need of services, juvenile delinquency, and some adoptions.
Court forms are available in the clerks office in each level of court. Many forms can easily downloaded online at the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Circuit Court District Division , Circuit Court Probate Division, and Circuit Court Family Division webpages.
Q: Who can be a guardian ad litem?
A: Guardians ad litem (GAL) are appointed by a commission established by the state legislature. For more information, you can go to the Guardian as Litem Board page at https://www.oplc.nh.gov/guardian-ad-litem/certified.htm.
Q: What role does a guardian ad litem (GAL) play in family cases?
A: In family cases, a guardian ad litem may be appointed when parents cannot agree to a parenting arrangement for children. Typically the judge or marital master issues an order appointing a particular GAL to investigate specific issues that are in dispute. The court order will designate how much each party is required to pay the GAL unless the parties are indigent.
The GAL conducts an investigation which may include interviewing the parents, the children and other persons who may have information relevant to the issues involved. In most cases the GAL prepares a written report which includes a recommended resolution of parenting issues that, in the GAL's estimation, is in the best interest of the children.The judge or marital master makes the final determination after considering the guardian ad litem's recommendation along with all of the other evidence presented in the case.
Q: What should I do if I want to change the guardian ad litem assigned to my case?
A: In order to change the GAL, you must file a motion with the court where your case was heard. The judge or marital master in your case is the only one who can change that appointment.
Q: Whom can I talk to about a complaint I have regarding my guardian ad litem?
A: Try to resolve the issues through your lawyer and the guardian ad litem. If that doesn't work, or you are not satisfied, then all issues concerning a guardian ad litem should be addressed to the judge or marital master in your case. The Guardian ad litem Board also has a process for reviewing complaints against GALs they certify, although they cannot change a court order. The Board may be reached by going to https://www.oplc.nh.gov/guardian-ad-litem/index.htm.
Q: What is guardianship and how is the need for one determined?
A: Guardianships in New Hampshire fall into two general categories, guardianship of minors and guardianship of incapacitated persons, usually adults. A minor is defined as a person under the age of 18.
In both cases, a guardian is appointed by the court to take care of the minor or adult, and/or the minors or adults property, also known as their estate. The Circuit Court Probate Divisions have jurisdiction over both types of cases. The Family Division has jurisdiction for guardianships of minors over the person. For more information on guardianships, see the section on guardianships in the probate division or the section on minor guardianships in family division.
A: All judges in New Hampshire are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Executive Council.
Q: Can I speak to the judge about my case?
A: All parties to a case must be present whenever a judge discusses that case. There are certain instances where one party in a case can speak to a judge without the other parties present. In all cases, however, the first place you should contact with any questions about your case is the clerk's office at the court where your case was filed.
Q: What do I do if I have a complaint about a judge?
A: Since 1977, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has overseen the disciplinary process for judges through the "Judicial Conduct Committee." Check the Judicial Conduct Committee page for information.
Please see our Jury Duty page for further information.
Q: I am a tenant and was just handed paperwork from my landlord by a sheriff? What do I do?
A: If you want your case to be heard in court you should fill out a pink appearance form available in the clerk's office. You must file the appearance with the court by the “return day” listed on the paperwork given to you by the Sherriff. Failure to file by that day will result in a default being entered against you. The court will give you two copies, one to mail or deliver to the landlord and one to keep for yourself. The court will schedule a hearing within the next 10 days for you and the landlord to appear before a judge. For more information go to the District Division's Landlord/Tenant Claims page. To find the District Division nearest you, go to our Circuit Court District Division Locations page.
Q: How do I change my name?
A: If the petitioner’s name change does not relate to a Family Division case type, they must file a petition with the Circuit Court Probate Division. Family Division accepts name change petitions if they relate to an open or closed case of a Family Division case type. Persons seeking a name change in Family Division must complete a Petition for Change of Name relating to Family Division Jurisdiction, and check the relevant Family Division case type, listing any known case name and number.
Q: If a person voluntarily surrenders his or her parental rights, is he or she still obligated to pay child support, including medical bills?
A: This is a complicated question that should be addressed by a lawyer. For a legal referral, contact the New Hampshire Bar Association at (603) 229-0002.
Q: What is the contact information for re-ordering Continuous (feed) Complaint Form (103A-045)?
A: The Continuous Feed Complaint Form or Criminal Complaint Form is printed by "Source4." To place an order, call Source4 directly at 508-562-3450 X303.
Q: What is the Public Protection Fund?
A: The Public Protection Fund has been established, in the words of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, at Rule 55, ". . . to provide a public service and to promote confidence in the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession by providing some measure of reimbursement to victims who have lost money or property" because of theft or misappropriation by a New Hampshire attorney, and occurring in New Hampshire during the course of a client-attorney or fiduciary relationship between the attorney and you. The Fund is administered by the New Hampshire Bar Association, through a nine-member committee, under the general oversight of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Fund is funded by annual contributions made by attorneys who are members of the New Hampshire Bar Association.
Persons who pursue a legal matter on their own in court, without a lawyer representing them, are often referred to as "self represented" or "pro se" litigants. Contact the clerk's office in the court nearest you to find out if information or forms are available for people who decide to represent themselves .Self represented litigants may want to review the information found at the NH Judicial Branch Self-Help Center http://www.courts.state.nh.us/selfhelp/index.htm
For a complete list of New Hampshire's state laws, see the Revised Statutes Online. Clicking the "Browse" button there will allow you to see an index of statute titles and chapters.
Q: What do I do if I have received a pink copy of a Small Claims Complaint?
A: Read it carefully front and back and then fill out the bottom portion on the back and send it to the court. The court will schedule a hearing and send you a notice to appear in court in a few weeks. At that time, you may bring any evidence or witnesses you wish the judge to consider on your behalf. Small claims mediation is available, without charge.
Q: Do I need an attorney to represent me?
A: No, you do not. You can hire your own attorney if you wish, but the small claims procedure is designed for individuals to handle their own claims. This is a less formal court proceeding and the court understands that most individuals will be representing themselves. Also see the Self-Help Center.
Q: What if the other side has an attorney?
A: Judges understand that it is their role to assure that hearings are fair and that all parties have an opportunity to speak without being intimidated.
Q: I brought a small claims complaint in court and now I have received a "Notice of Default" (or a "Notice of Judgment"). What do I do now?
The person you brought the claim against (the defendant) has 30 days to pay the judgment in full. If the defendant fails to pay, or fails to pay the amount in full, you may attempt to collect through the court in a process outlined in the small claims portion of the court's website.
Q: Can I pay a motor vehicle ticket at the court?
A: No. The court does not process motor vehicle violations unless a trial is requested. The ticket must be paid directly to the Division of Motor Vehicles, 23 Hazen Drive Concord NH 03301.
Q: How can I find out what I owe on traffic tickets?
Call or write the Bureau of Financial Responsibility at the Division of Motor Vehicles, (603) 227-4010. The address is 23 Hazen Drive Concord NH 03301.
Q: How can I pay a traffic ticket without having to drive to the town where it was issued?
A: Call the Bureau of Financial Responsibility at the Division of Motor Vehicles, (603) 227-4010 for information. The address is 23 Hazen Drive Concord NH 03301.
Q: What is the procedure to get a transcript of my hearing?
A: You can request a copy of the transcript by following the instructions here.
Q: Can I write my own will?
A: Yes, people can write their own wills in New Hampshire. Under New Hampshire law, everyone at least 18 years of age and married persons under that age, who are of sane mind, may dispose of their property by their last will in writing. In order for a will or codicil to be valid under New Hampshire law, it must comply with the requirements of the law. For instance, the will must be in writing, signed by the person whose will it is, and signed by two or more credible witnesses who must swear that the persons signature is genuine.
Q: Where can I get forms for a living will?
A: The court does not provide forms for living wills. To obtain a form for a living will, write the New Hampshire Hospital Association at 125 Airport Road Concord, NH 03301, or call (603) 225-0900.
Q: When someone dies, do I need to file the will or do anything in the probate division if everything is already in my name?
A: Even if there are no assets, if a will exists for the deceased person, the person named in the will as the executor, or the person holding the will, must file the will, any codicils, and a death certificate with the Probate Division within thirty (30) days of the date of death. If real or personal property is held as a "joint tenancy with right of survivorship," it is not part of the probate estate since title passes at death directly to the surviving joint tenant.
Q: What forms do I need to file to process the estate of a deceased person?
A: The requirements for probate are varied. For information, see the Estates page in Circuit Court Probate Division.
Q: How long do creditors have to file a claim against the estate?
A: The estate must remain open for at least six months from the date of the executors appointment to allow creditors to present claims. If all claims have been paid, the estate may be closed and a final account filed with the court.
Q: What happens if there is no will?
A: If you need to open an estate administration without a will, you still need to file an original death certificate. Visit the Estates page to see what forms are needed to open an estate.
Q: What happens if you are not a relative but the family asked you to close the estate?
A: If there is a will, it will say who should be the executor. If the person died without a will then the law says 30 days from the date of death, anyone may petition to open an estate.
Q: What does it cost to file a case in the Circuit Court Probate Division?
A: Court entry fees vary by case type in the probate division. Refer to the Filing Fees Chart for more information.
Q: How do I get a copy of documents in a case file?
A: You call or write the register's office and request them. You can call the register's office and ask for the number of pages you need copied. A copy of a will costs $1.00 per page. All other copying is $0.50 per page.