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Domestic Violence Protective Orders (RSA 173-B)

Reviewed 12/7/2023
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The phrases "restraining order" and "domestic violence protective order" are often used interchangeably but there are differences. The New Hampshire Domestic Violence Protocols explain:

An order issued under RSA 173-B is called a domestic violence protective order. The range of potential plaintiffs is broad (married, divorced, child-in-common, intimate partner, dating relationship, etc.). It can be issued only after a finding of abuse and a finding of credible threat to the plaintiff's safety. It requires that the defendant be served, notified and given the opportunity to be heard (due process). If granted, it is in effect for one year, subject to renewal by the plaintiff. The order, if qualifying, may be entered into a national database (the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, Protective Order File) maintained by the FBI, and is enforceable by law enforcement and the courts around the country. The order subjects a defendant, having been found to have committed one or more acts of abuse, to multiple restrictions, including no contact, and no access to or possession of firearms. Sanctions for violations can be significant, particularly if violations of federal law occur. Mutual orders (i.e., orders issued against a plaintiff and defendant when only the plaintiff has sought an order of protection) are prohibited. The court may only consider issuing orders against each party if each files a petition and if each establishes abuse and a credible threat against the other.

An order issued under either RSA 458 or RSA 461-A is limited to parties involved in divorce or parenting proceedings. There is no requirement for a defendant to receive notice or be given an opportunity to be heard, nor is there any requirement that the court make a finding of abuse. Interestingly, RSA 458 does not even define abuse. A court may issue an order upon oral or written request based merely on the request of one party. Hence, it is called a restraining order, not a domestic violence protective order. It generally restrains parties from having further contact with one another or speaking to one another in inappropriate terms. Unlike a domestic violence protective order issued under RSA 173-B, a restraining order issued under RSA 458 or 461-A may last indefinitely. Such orders are generally not entered into the national database, nor are defendants subject to firearms prohibitions. The court may issue mutual restraining orders under RSA 458.

Information About Domestic Violence

The Supreme Court has established a multidisciplinary task force to conduct a systemic review of domestic violence cases in the court system.

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  
It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. 
NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.