Family Law

At-a-Glance Contributor
Katharine J. Phinney
Practices family law at Russman Law Office in Concord, New Hampshire

No. 2018-0139
Dec. 21, 2018

  • Whether RSA 173-B:5, VI sets forth a deadline by which a plaintiff must file a motion to extend a final order of protection.

On August 2015, the plaintiff was granted a domestic violence temporary order of protection against the defendant, which then became a final order of protection effective from December 15, 2015 until December 15, 2016.  Before the expiration of the final order of protection, the plaintiff timely requested an extension of the restraining order. On November 11, 2016 the court granted this extension making the order of protection effective until December 15, 2017.  The defendant objected and a hearing was held. After a hearing, the trial court issued a narrative order on January 27, 2017 upholding the original extension of the Restraining Order for an additional year.

While the original November order from the trial court extended the final order of protection until December 15, 2017, the plaintiff believed that the restraining order had been extended to January 27, 2018 based on the narrative order of January 27, 2017.  On January 19, 2018, the plaintiff filed for a five-year extension of the restraining order and the defendant objected indicating this request was not timely as the restraining order expired pursuant to the original order 35 days before the plaintiff’s request. The defendant argued that the January 2018 order confirmed the original order extending the restraining order until December 15, 2017. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s request for an extension of the restraining order, thereby agreeing with the defendant in that the restraining order was extended to December 15, 2017 and not January 27, 2018.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that RSA 173-B:5 (VI) does not impose a deadline for filing a motion requesting a five-year extension. The Supreme Court reviewed the plain language of the statute, specifically that the restraining order “may be extended … for one year after the expiration of the first order and thereafter each extension may be for up to five years.” The Court held that “by definition, a final order of protection cannot be “extended” if it has “expired”.’ In this case, the Court found that the underlying restraining order expired on December 15, 2017 pursuant to the trial court’s original order. While the Court was sympathetic to the plaintiff, the Court would not ignore the statute’s plain meaning.  The plaintiff attempted to raise several other arguments; however, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision holding that the statute had to be read as a whole and based on the initial ruling that the order of protection had expired, the plaintiff was unable to raise these additional arguments.

Sheila J. Sturm of Sturm Law, PLLC of Milford for the plaintiff. Tanya L. Spony of Smith-Weiss Shepard, P.C., of Nashua for the defendant.