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Know the Laws: New Hampshire

UPDATED April 28, 2016

Protective Orders (due to domestic violence)

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A protective order is a civil order that provides protection from abuse by a current or former intimate partner, or family or household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in New Hampshire?

This section defines abuse (domestic violence) for the purposes of getting a protective order.

According to New Hampshire law, "abuse" happens when a family or household member, or current or former sexual or intimate partner commits or tries to commit one of the following crimes against you and the behavior causes a present threat to the your safety: 

Note: Even if the abuser committed one (or more) of these acts against you a long time before you filed your petition, the judge can still consider these older acts if, in combination with the abuser's recent conduct, they show an ongoing pattern of behavior which reasonably causes (or has caused) you to fear for your safety or well-being.*  Also, if you and the abuser reconciled (got back together)  after a previous protective order and prior to filing the current petition, the judge cannot use this fact as a reason to deny you a new order or terminate an existing protective order.**

If you do not believe that your situation fits into what is described above, you may want to read our Stalking Protective Orders page.

* N.H. Rev. Stat § 173-B:1(I)
** N.H. Rev. Stat § 173-B:5(III)

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back to topWhat types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of orders:

Temporary (emergency) ex parte protective orders issued via telephone. If you are in immediate danger of domestic violence and the court is closed, you may get an emergency order by going to or calling the nearest police department.  A police officer can help you fill out the forms and contact a judge by telephone. The judge may give you an emergency order over the phone or via fax machine if s/he believes you are in imminent danger. If you get an order over the phone, it will last until the close of the next business day that the court is open. For the protection to remain in effect, you will have to go to the circuit court where you live or where you fled to (unless the judge orders you to go to a different court) before the close of the next business day to request a protective order that will last longer.* 

Temporary ex parte protective orders issued in court. When you go to court to file for a protective order, if the judge believes there is an immediate/present danger of abuse, the judge can order a temporary ex parte order to protect you until you have a full hearing on the protective order.  The defendant/abuser has the right to file a written request with the clerk of the court to request a hearing to fight against the order, which would be held within 3 to 5 business days - and this hearing would count as the final protective order hearing.*  If the defendant does not request this immediate hearing, the hearing for the final order will generally be held within 30 days of when you filed the petition or within 10 days of when the defendant is served with the papers, whichever is later.**  You must attend whatever hearing is scheduled in order to continue your order.

Final protective orders. A final protective order can be issued only after a court hearing where you and the abuser have the right to be present and to each present your evidence, testimoney, etc.  A final order will last up to 1 year, unless otherwise stated.***  Orders may also be extended - see How do I change, extend or cancel my protective order?

* N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:4(I)
** N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:3(VII)(a)
*** N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:5(VI)

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back to topHow can a protective order help me?

A temporary ex parte protective order and a final protective order can order the defendant:

  • to hand over all firearms, ammunition and other deadly weapons in his/her control or possession to a peace officer;* (Note: Later on, the judge has the power to issue a search warrant authorizing a peace officer to seize (take) any weapons, firearms and ammunition, if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant didn't hand them over as ordered);*1
  • to not abuse you, your relatives (regardless of where they live), or your household members in any way.
  • to not enter your home or the area immediately surrounding your home (the curtilage) unless s/he is accompanied by a peace officer, provides  reasonable notice to you, and you agree to allow him/her to retrieve personal belongings;
  • to not contact you or enter your work, school, or any other place that you include in the order that is regularly visited  by you or by any family or household member.
  • to not take, destroy or damage any property that you may be legally entitled to;
  • to stay away from any animal owned or possessed by you, the abuser, or a minor child in either or your households and forbidding the defendant/abuser from taking, giving away, or hiding the animal, or committing an act of cruelty or neglect against the animal (and giving you the care, custody, or control of the animal).*
A temporary ex parte protective order can order the following additional protections:
  • order the defendant not to take any action that would lead to the disconnection of any and all utilities and services to your home; and not to discontinue existing business or service contracts, including, but not limited to, mortgage or rental agreements.*2
  • grant custody of minor children to either party (or, with notice, to the state when it is in the best interest of a child);
  • deny the defendant visitation, order that visitation be supervised (or that it only take place only at a supervised visitation center that uses a metal detection device and has trained security personnel on-site), or order a specific visitation schedule. Visitation can only be ordered in an ex parte order where the judge determines that it can be safely ordered and the judge will consider the following factors when deciding this:
    • the degree to which visitation exposes the you or the children to physical or psychological harm;
    • whether this risk can be removed by ordering supervised visitation or by ordering supervised visitation at a center that uses a metal detection device and has trained security personnel on-site; and
    • whether visitation can be ordered without requiring the plaintiff and defendant to have contact regarding the exchange of children.*3
  • grant you (the petitioner) the exclusive use and possession of the home, an automobile, household furniture if the defendant has the legal duty to support you or your minor children, or if you have contributed to the household expenses (and the judge will consider the type and amount of contribution to be a factor.)*2

A final protective order can order the following additional protections:

  • grant you the exclusive use and possession of the home and the area immediately surrounding your home (the curtilage) unless all of the followiing are true:
    • the defendant is the only owner of the home or the only one on the lease; and
    • s/he pays for the premises; and
    • the defendant has no legal duty to support you or your minor children who are on the premises;
  • order the defendant not to withhold specific items of your personal property (and a peace officer can go with you to get these items);
  • grant to you the exclusive right to use/possess the household furniture and/or a specific automobile, unless the defendant exclusively owns such personal property and the defendant has no legal duty to support you or your minor children;
  • order the defendant to make automobile, insurance, health care, utilities, rent, or mortgage payments;
  • grant temporary custody of the parties' minor children to either party or, where appropriate, to the department;
  • establish visitation rights with regard to the parties' minor children.  In order to secure the safety of you and your children, the judge can deny visitation, order that visitation be supervised (or that it only take place only at a supervised visitation center that uses a metal detection device and has trained security personnel on-site), or order a specific visitation schedule. The judge will consider whether visitation can be exercised by the non-custodial parent without risk to you or your children's safety by looking at the following factors:
    • the degree to which visitation exposes the you or the children to physical or psychological harm;
    • whether this risk can be removed by ordering supervised visitation or by ordering supervised visitation at a center that uses a metal detection device and has trained security personnel on-site; and
    • whether visitation can be ordered without requiring you and defendant to have contact regarding the exchange of children.
  • order the defendant to pay financial support to you and/or your minor children, unless the defendant has no legal duty to support the you or your minor children.
  • ordering the abuser to attend a batterer's intervention program or personal counseling (but the judge cannot order joint counseling for you and the abuser).
  • ordering the defendant to pay you money for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse, which may include, but not be limited to, loss of income, medical and dental expenses, damage to property, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained, and moving and shelter expenses; and
  • ordering the defendant to pay reasonable attorney's fees.*4

* N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 173-B:4(I)(a); 173-B:5(I)(a)
*1 N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 173-B:4(II); 173-B:5(II)
*2 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:4(I)(b)
*3 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:4(I)(a)
*4 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:5(I)(b)

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back to topIn which county can I file for a protective order?

You can file a petition in the county/district where you live or where the abuser lives.*  If you have fled your home to avoid further abuse, you also have the option of filing the petition in the county/district where you are temporarily living.**  However, if you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county where you have fled to would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:3(I)
** N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:2

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