If you'll be appearing in court next year for any reason, it's important that you prepare yourself as much as possible beforehand. Just as legal issues are complex and in many cases confusing, so is representing yourself in court, filing necessary documents and determining when and where you need to be. Over the coming weeks, the staff at the New Hampshire law firm of Stephen C. Brown & Associates will attempt to elucidate some fundamentals of the court system.
There are three "courts" that comprise New Hampshire's Judicial Branch: the Circuit Court, Superior Court and Supreme Court (from lowest to highest authority). Within the Circuit Court, there are three additional sub-classifications: Family, Probate and District.
For the purposes of this guide, the most common area residents of the Granite State will encounter falls within the Circuit Court's jurisdiction.
If you're filing for divorce, you will appear at, appropriately, the Family Court. This division also deals with child support disputes, domestic violence, abuse, establishing guardians, special needs cases and several other related areas of the law.
For those establishing, amending or disputing a will, you will file with the Probate Court, which handles nearly all cases involving trusts, estate planning and equity, as well as some adoptions and name changes.
But many New Hampshire citizens will appear before the District Court, which handles misdemeanor crimes, small claims, traffic matters, disputes between renters and their landlords and a sampling of other cases.
In some circumstances, the jurisdiction of the District Court will coincide with that of Superior Court, which typically handles similar disputes but on a larger scale, so your case could go to either.
To find out more about the courts system, you can visit the website of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch.