New Hampshire Court Records
How Do New Hampshire Circuit Courts Work?
The New Hampshire Circuit Court is a trial court that handles most cases filed in the state. The court is divided into three divisions; District, Probate, and Family. The District Division of the court handles both criminal and civil cases. It handles cases such as
- Misdemeanor and violation level offenses
- Small claims
- Landlord and tenant cases
- Stalking cases
- Some other civil cases.
The Probate Division of the court handles cases relating to
- Trusts and estates
- Guardianships and involuntary commitment proceedings
- Name changes
- Partition of real estate
The Family Division handles cases relating to
- Divorce/parenting actions
- Child support
- Domestic violence petitions
- Guardianship of minors
- Termination of parental rights
- Abuse/neglect cases
- Children in need of services
- Juvenile delinquency
All the divisions of the New Hampshire Circuit Courts permit e-filing in select areas under their jurisdictions. The District Division permits e-filing for small claims and civil cases. Other cases filed under the District Division have forms that can be used when instituting claims. The Family Division adopts e-filing for guardianship of minors and name change applications. Forms are equally available for other types of actions initiated in the Family Division. The Probate Division permits e-filing for estate cases, guardianship, and name changes. Forms are also available in the clerk’s office of each court.
The Probate Division has shared jurisdiction with the District Division and Superior Court on civil cases such as torts, contract collections, small claims, and landlord-tenant actions. The Probate Division’s jurisdiction arises if a party to the suit is an estate, trust, conservatorship, or guardianship.
Some District Divisions also handle juvenile matters and domestic violence cases. In some counties, the Circuit Court District Division and the Superior Court share jurisdictions, and parties can choose to go to either.
The New Hampshire Judicial Branch has a mediation and arbitration program that is utilized across different courts in the judicial system. Where a matter in the Probate Division is contested, the court can appoint mediators for free. The Family Division also makes mediators available to help parties reach amicable settlements. In the Family Division, parties either pay $60 per hour for mediators or apply for assistance to a fund managed by the Judicial Council. In the District Division, parties may voluntarily apply for a mediator in small claims matters or civil cases. Each court has its own set of rules that determine the procedures used.
Some appeals from the Circuit Courts go directly to the New Hampshire Supreme Court while others go to the Superior Courts. If a party has a right to appeal, the appeal must be entered within thirty days of the final decision intended to be appealed. Failure to do this results in a waiver of the right to appeal.
For additional information, each division has a service center that can provide answers to any inquiries and answer questions on cases under its jurisdiction. The Circuit Courts have adopted a single toll-free number for calls made from the United States or Canada-(855) 212–1234. Calls made from outside of these countries should be to the court’s number- (603)415–0162. These calls should only be made during the court’s business hours. If information is sought outside the court’s business hours, an email should be sent to one of the following email addresses:
- Family Division - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Probate Division - email@example.com
- District Division - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Circuit Courts divisions are found in numerous locations across the ten counties in the state. The District Division has thirty-two locations across the state. The Family Division has twenty-eight locations while the Probate Division has ten, with one in each county. The New Hampshire Judicial Branch website has a court locator that can be used to find the different Circuit Courts in the state. Cases are assigned to a court based on where the involved parties live.
Circuit Court judges are appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the New Hampshire Judicial Selection Commission. However, the governor’s appointment is subject to the confirmation of the Executive Council. Judges are appointed to lifetime terms and serve until they attain the age of 70.
Judges may be removed before their tenure through one of the following methods:
- With the assent of the Executive Council, the governor may remove a judge for reasonable cause upon the joint address of both houses of the general court.
- The New Hampshire House of Representatives may impeach a judge. This must be followed by a conviction after a trial by the senate for the judge to be removed.
- The committee on judicial conduct may investigate complaints filed against a judge and, where necessary, initiate action against the judge at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may choose to censure, reprimand, suspend, or remove the judge after proceedings. The Supreme Court may make its decision public or keep it private.
The committee on judicial conduct was established by Rule 35 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of New Hampshire. The committee is made up of eleven main members and eleven alternate members. Alternate members can only participate in a proceeding where expressly provided by the Rules. Note that the committee has the power to investigate or consider the actions of any judge or any other person who performs a judicial role.
Records of cases handled in the Circuit Courts are public records and can be accessed by the public. Requests for these cases from the Circuit Courts must be in writing. Form NHJB–2798-DFS can be used to request records from the Family and District Divisions. For the Probate Division, requestors may use Form NHJB–2941-P.
Requests should be dropped off at the central processing center of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch. The address is:
NHJB Administrative Offices,
Attention: Central Processing Center,
1 Granite Place,
Concord, NH 03301.
Drop-offs should only be made on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Records for requests made before noon may be available on the following business day. Requests cannot be dropped off on weekends or court holidays.
Alternatively, a requester can visit the court where the case was decided and request the records from the clerk of the court. Circuit Courts are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. Note that the court may charge a fee for the record.