Welcome to DOVE!
DOVE provides expedited, free legal representation to qualifying low-income clients at final domestic violence hearings under RSA 173-B. The DOVE Project targets cases in which the batterer has exhibited violence toward the victim and one or more of the following factors exists:
- the victim is facing criminal or civil charges arising out of the abuse,
- custody or visitation is a significant issue,
- the batterer is represented by counsel, or
- the victim has a developmental disability or mental illness that interferes with pro se representation.
The Domestic Violence Statute, RSA 173-B, was enacted in 1979 to enable the plaintiff and defendant in domestic violence cases to appear pro se at hearings for restraining orders in the District and Family Courts. In reality, however, petitioners are attempting to represent themselves against batterers who not only wield power unequally in the relationship, but often have attorneys to protect their interests. In addition, courts frequently rule on custody, visitation, support, and the use of the home, as well as restraining orders, at the final hearing.
For some clients the issue is survival. Many times the petitioner’s request for a restraining order is her first attempt to wrest control of her life from the batterer and to stop the violence. Without representation at this crucial juncture, petitioners are more likely to return to dangerous and degrading situations. Attorneys can help rectify the inequity that is inherent in these cases by volunteering to represent low-income petitioners at final hearings.
The DOVE Project recruits attorneys to represent qualifying petitioners who are referred by domestic violence centers around the state. Interested attorneys join a panel in their community and they receive referrals on a rotating basis. Attorneys should expect to commit three to four hours to simpler cases and eight to twenty hours to more complex custody cases. The attorney’s involvement is limited to the final restraining order hearing unless the attorney wishes to continue to represent the client. Attorneys participating in the DOVE Project will receive:
- CLE training by attorneys, advocates and judges on 173-B, the dynamics of battering, understanding the client, a profile of the batterer and limit setting with clients;
- a legal manual on how to represent a client in a 173-B hearing;
- assistance from experienced practitioners when a complex issue arises;
- malpractice insurance for all the cases handled pro bono through DOVE; and
- the opportunity to use legal skills to help clients take the first step to leave an abusive relationship and to reclaim their lives.
- The New Hampshire Pro Bono Referral System,
- The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse, and
- Domestic Violence Centers around the state.
and is funded by:
- The New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s IOLTA Grants Committee,
- The Violence Against Women Act, and