Bar News - February 13, 2009
Service Centers, Part II – Family and District Court
By: By Sharon Perreault, Case Manager, Family and District Court Service Center
I am pleased to report that the District Court & Family Division Service Center has been up and running successfully since June and is reaching more and more people every day. We have been contacted by people from all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, with the vast majority being from New Hampshire. I am finding that our statistics are growing every month and this with only our e-mail address and telephone number listed on the Judicial Branch website.
So far, the greatest number of inquiries relate to marital and small claims actions.
Queries 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 legal terms mean, warranty problems – even how to get a marriage license and who can perform a marriage ceremony – all of which I answer.
The most common questions concern what forms are needed to start a divorce action, a parenting petition, a child support action, a guardianship, or a grandparent visitation. There are a number of small claims’ questions, too, the most common being, "How do I start a small claims’ case?"
I have compiled a fairly comprehensive list of New Hampshire community resources. These resources provide a broad range of services for our communities, including those related to domestic violence protection, child support, and pro bono legal help. Depending on what’s being asked, after I have answered court-related questions, I often refer callers to one or more of these community resource agencies for further assistance with a particular need.
Recently a caller needed information about domestic violence (DV) 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."
Every time I provide information to someone in response to a call or e-mail, I feel we have succeeded in helping people understand the court process; I believe we have helped them resolve their problems. 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 has helped someone find the court or other community resource he or she needed.
Based on my first six months on the job, I believe that the service center has succeeded in improving access to the courts by providing 24-hour e-mail service and a toll-free number, both of which are accessible to anyone who needs them.
Reprinted with permission from e-Court Connections, the online newsletter for the NH court community. To keep up-to-date with court news by reading the newsletter in its entirety, visit the Judicial Branch home page at www.courts.state.nh.us and click on e-Court Connections.