HB686 (2005) Detail

Relative to the judicial branch family division.


HB 686-FN – AS AMENDED BY THE HOUSE

09Mar2005… 0386h

2005 SESSION

05-0718

09/04

HOUSE BILL 686-FN

AN ACT relative to the judicial branch family division.

SPONSORS: Rep. Hager, Merr 12; Rep. Pratt, Ches 2; Rep. Weyler, Rock 8

COMMITTEE: Judiciary

ANALYSIS

This bill establishes the judicial branch family division.

This bill was requested by the family division study committee appointed by the supreme court.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

09Mar2005… 0386h

05-0718

09/04

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Five

AN ACT relative to the judicial branch family division.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Chapter: Judicial Branch Family Division. Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 490-C the following new chapter:

CHAPTER 490-D

JUDICIAL BRANCH FAMILY DIVISION

490-D:1 Judicial Branch Family Division Established. The general court hereby organizes, constitutes, and establishes the judicial branch family division. The goals of the family division are the respectful treatment of all citizens by justices, marital masters and other family division staff, the prompt and fair resolution of family issues by justices and marital masters specially selected and trained to deal effectively with such issues, the use of alternative dispute resolution to reduce the adversarial nature of proceedings involving families, and the assignment of all family matters of a single family to one family division justice or marital master located in a family division court that is geographically accessible to the family.

490-D:2 Jurisdiction. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary and except for the limited need to allow an existing case to proceed with the same judge who had presided over it before the implementation of the judicial branch family division, following implementation of the division at a division site in accordance with RSA 490-D:5, jurisdiction over the following matters shall be exclusively exercised through the judicial branch family division as procedurally jurisdiction was previously exercised in the superior, district, and probate courts:

I. Petitions for divorce, nullity of marriage, alimony, custody of children, support, and to establish paternity.

II. Actions for support or custody for children of unwed parties.

III. Actions under RSA 169-B, relating to delinquent children except for concurrent jurisdiction with the district court to enter temporary detention orders under RSA 169-B:11, III and 169-B:12, IV(b).

IV. Actions under RSA 169-C, relating to abused and neglected children except for concurrent jurisdiction with the district court to enter orders under RSA 169-C:6, VI and RSA 169-C:6-a.

V. Actions under RSA 169-D, relating to children in need of services except for concurrent jurisdiction with the district court to enter orders under RSA 169-D:8, I, RSA 169-D:9-a, and RSA 169-D:10.

VI. Actions under RSA 173-B, relating to protection of persons from domestic violence except for concurrent jurisdiction with the superior and district courts to enter temporary protective orders under RSA 173-B:4.

VII. The adoption of children in abuse and neglect cases pursuant to RSA 169-C, termination of parental rights cases pursuant to RSA 170-C, and guardianships of the person of minors pursuant to paragraph VIII. Jurisdiction over private, agency, and international adoptions shall remain with the probate court.

VIII. The guardianship of the person of minors. In cases involving the guardianship of both the person of a minor and the estate of the same minor, jurisdiction shall remain with the probate court.

IX. The termination of parental rights.

X. The change of names of persons who apply therefor in matters relating to jurisdiction in paragraphs I-IX.

490-D:3 Equity Jurisdiction. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the judicial branch family division shall have the powers of a court of equity in cases where subject matter jurisdiction lies with the judicial branch family division. Suits in equity where subject matter jurisdiction lies with the judicial branch family division including, but not limited to, petitions for divorce, nullity of marriage, alimony, custody of children, support, and other similar proceedings may be heard upon oral testimony or depositions, or both, or when both parties consent, or service having been made and a notice of the time and place of the hearing having been given, when both parties appear. Such suits may be heard by any justice of the judicial branch family division at any time, but nothing contained in this section shall be construed as limiting the power of the judicial branch family division to have issues of fact framed and tried by a jury, according to the rules in equity, or the course of such proceedings at common law.

490-D:4 Sites. The judicial branch family division shall operate at the following sites and such other sites as the supreme court, from time to time, determines, covering the following districts as delineated in RSA 502-A:1, except as otherwise indicated:

Grafton County

I. The courthouses in Grafton county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the court facility in North Haverhill, the Plymouth District Court, the Littleton District Court, and the Lebanon District Court.

II.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Haverhill district shall be heard in the court facility in North Haverhill.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Plymouth-Lincoln district shall be heard in the Plymouth District Court.

(c) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Littleton district shall be heard in the Littleton District Court.

(d) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Lebanon-Hanover district shall be heard in the Lebanon District Court.

Rockingham County

III. The courthouses in Rockingham county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the court facility in Brentwood, the Portsmouth District Court, the Salem District Court, and the Derry District Court.

IV.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Portsmouth district, the Hampton district, and the towns of Newfields, Newmarket, and Stratham shall be heard in the Portsmouth District Court.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Salem district shall be heard in the Salem District Court.

(c) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Auburn district (except for the towns of Deerfield, Northwood, Nottingham, and Raymond) and the Derry district shall be heard in the Derry District Court.

(d) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Exeter district (except for the towns of Newfields, Newmarket, and Stratham), the Plaistow district, and the towns of Deerfield, Northwood, Nottingham, and Raymond shall be heard in the court facility in Brentwood.

Coos County

V. The courthouses in Coos county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Colebrook District Court, the Berlin District Court, and the court facility in Lancaster.

VI.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Colebrook district shall be heard in the Colebrook District Court.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Berlin-Gorham district shall be heard in the Berlin District Court.

(c) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Lancaster district shall be heard in the court facility in Lancaster.

Carroll County

VII. The courthouses in Carroll county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the court facility in Ossipee and the District Court for northern Carroll County.

VIII.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the district for southern Carroll county shall be heard in the court facility in Ossipee.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the district for northern Carroll county shall be heard in the District Court for northern Carroll County.

Sullivan County

IX. The courthouses in Sullivan county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Newport District Court and the Claremont District Court.

X.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Newport district and the New London district in Merrimack county shall be heard in the Newport District Court.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Claremont district shall be heard in the Claremont District Court.

Strafford County

XI. The courthouses in Strafford county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Dover District Court and the Strafford county court facility in Dover.

XII.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Dover-Somersworth-Durham district shall be heard in the Dover District Court.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Rochester district shall be heard in the Strafford county court facility in Dover.

Belknap County

XIII. The courthouse in Belknap county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be a facility located in Laconia, provided, however, that the facility meets the minimum standard prescribed by the New Hampshire court accreditation commission pursuant to RSA 490:5-c.

XIV.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Laconia district shall be heard in the judicial branch family division facility in Laconia.

(b) Matters arising in the towns of Sanbornton and Tilton shall be heard in the Franklin District Court in Merrimack county.

Hillsborough County

XV. The courthouses in Hillsborough county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Hillsborough County Superior Court for the northern judicial district, the Goffstown District Court, the Hillsborough County Superior Court for the southern judicial district, the Milford District Court, and the Merrimack District Court.

XVI.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Manchester district shall be heard in the Hillsborough County Superior Court for the northern judicial district.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Goffstown district shall be heard in the Goffstown District Court.

(c) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Nashua district shall be heard in the Hillsborough County Superior Court for the southern judicial district.

(d) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Milford district shall be heard in the Milford District Court.

(e) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Merrimack district shall be heard in the Merrimack District Court.

(f) Matters arising in Hillsborough county municipalities located within the Jaffrey-Peterborough district shall be heard in the Jaffrey-Peterborough District Court in Cheshire county.

(g) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Hillsborough district shall be heard in the Concord District Court in Merrimack county.

Merrimack County

XVII. The courthouses in Merrimack county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Franklin District Court, the Hooksett District Court, and a facility located in Concord, provided, however, that the facility meets the minimum standard prescribed by the New Hampshire court accreditation commission pursuant to RSA 490:5-c.

XVIII.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Franklin district shall be heard in the Franklin District Court.

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Hooksett district shall be heard in the Hooksett District Court.

(c) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Concord district, the Henniker district, and the Hillsborough district shall be heard in the judicial branch family division facility in Concord.

(d) Matters arising in municipalities located within the New London district shall be heard in the Newport District Court in Sullivan county.

Cheshire County

XIX. The courthouses in Cheshire county which will house the judicial branch family division shall be the Jaffrey-Peterborough District Court and a facility located in Keene, provided, however, that the facility meets the minimum standard prescribed by the New Hampshire court accreditation commission pursuant to RSA 490:5-c.

XX.(a) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Jaffrey-Peterborough district shall be heard in the Jaffrey-Peterborough District Court

(b) Matters arising in municipalities located within the Keene district shall be heard in the judicial branch family division facility in Keene.

490-D:5 Implementation Plan. On the effective date of this chapter, the judicial branch family division shall be operational in Grafton and Rockingham counties. For the remaining counties, the judicial branch family division shall be made operational by order of the supreme court, generally in the order listed in RSA 490-D:4.

490-D:6 Judges and Marital Masters. The supreme court shall select and designate certain district and probate court judges as judicial branch family division judges and certain superior court marital masters as judicial branch family division marital masters. The designation of judges shall be based upon the judge's knowledge of, commitment to, and expertise in family law matters. The number of judicial branch family division judges and marital masters shall be based upon a review of anticipated caseload, population, judicial time and efficiency, available judicial resources, and other relevant criteria, including information from the weighted caseload system. When the judicial branch family division is fully implemented, all superior court marital masters shall be designated as judicial branch family division marital masters.

490-D:7 Nominations and Appointments of Marital Masters.

I. The administrative judge of the judicial branch family division shall recommend persons to the governor and council for initial appointment as marital masters. In recommending candidates for initial appointment as marital masters under this chapter, the division shall utilize the procedures and standards described in superior court rules in effect as of July 1, 2004, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

II. For appointments of new marital masters, the administrative judge of the judicial branch family division shall submit to the governor the name of a nominee. The governor may accept the candidate nominated by the administrative judge and submit the candidate to the council for confirmation or may reject the candidate submitted by the administrative judge, and request a new nominee. If the council rejects a candidate for confirmation, the governor shall request a new nominee.

III. Marital masters shall serve an initial term of 3 years. Subsequent reappointments shall be made in accordance with judicial branch family division rules. During appointment terms, the authority and responsibility to conduct annual performance reviews, and termination, if necessary, shall be with the administrative judge of the judicial branch family division.

490-D:8 Qualifications of Marital Masters.

I. Marital masters shall possess the following qualifications:

(a) Professional experience in family law matters.

(b) Legal and personal qualities including, but not limited to:

(1) Knowledge of family matters, including related matters such as tax and pension law;

(2) Personal maturity so as to understand and make decisions on matters before the court; and

(3) Personal qualities of patience and understanding of the difficult personal matters which are the subject of divorce and a willingness to deal with complex family matters in a non-adversarial manner.

II. Each marital master shall complete a course in court process and procedures and mediation and negotiation.

490-D:9 Recommendations of Marital Masters. All recommendations of marital masters shall be signed by a judge.

490-D:10 Referee. The judicial branch family division, with the consent of the parties shall, and without the consent of the parties may, commit to one or more referees any cause at law or in equity, or the determination of any question of fact pending in the court wherein the parties are not, as matter of right, entitled to a trial by jury; and with the consent of the parties shall so commit any other cause or the determination of any other question of fact.

490-D:11 Staff. The supreme court shall identify a mechanism by which to assign and transfer such existing staff in the superior, district, and probate courts as is necessary to operate the judicial branch family division. Where possible, staff performing functions related to the jurisdiction of the judicial branch family division shall be transferred into similar positions in the division. The number of judicial branch family division staff shall be based upon a review of anticipated caseload, population, available staff resources, and other relevant criteria, including information from any weighted caseload system.

490-D:12 Judicial Branch Family Division Clerks. The administrative judge of the judicial branch family division shall appoint a clerk with responsibility for each judicial branch family division site. In the interest of the effective administration of justice, any such clerk may have responsibility for one or more judicial branch family division sites. Judicial branch family division clerks shall have the same duties as clerks of the superior and district courts and as registers of probate with respect to the judicial branch family division jurisdiction which was previously within the superior, district, and probate courts. Judicial branch family division clerks shall hold office during the pleasure of the administrative judge of the judicial branch family division.

490-D:13 Alternative Dispute Resolution. In implementing the judicial branch family division, the supreme court shall utilize alternative dispute resolution to reduce the adversarial nature of proceedings involving families. RSA 458:15-a shall be applicable to cases in the judicial branch family division.

490-D:14 Statutory References. During the implementation of the judicial branch family division, references in statutes involving the jurisdiction of the division to the superior, district, or probate courts shall be deemed to include the judicial branch family division. Following the full implementation of the division, those references shall be deemed to be to the judicial branch family division where it has exclusive jurisdiction of a subject matter and to the superior, district, or probate court and the judicial branch family division where the judicial branch family division has concurrent jurisdiction with one or more of those courts.

2 Designation of Part-time District Court Justice as Full-time District Court Justice. Amend RSA 491-A:3, IV to read as follows:

IV. The supreme court, after reviewing population, caseload, judicial time and efficiency, available judicial resources, the needs of the judicial branch family division, and other relevant criteria may request the governor and council to designate a sitting part-time justice as a full-time justice. The court may recommend certain justices; however, the governor and council shall not be bound by that recommendation. Upon designation, that justice shall become full-time. Prior to making its request, the supreme court shall receive the approval of the fiscal committee and there shall be funds in the court's budget specifically appropriated for the salary and benefits of an additional full-time district court justice.

3 Designation of Part-time Probate Court Judge as Full-time Judge. RSA 491-A:4, IV is repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

IV. The supreme court, after reviewing population, caseload, judicial time and efficiency, available judicial resources, the needs of the judicial branch family division, and other relevant criteria, may request the governor and council to designate a sitting part-time probate judge as a full-time judge. The court may recommend certain judges; however, the governor and council shall not be bound by that recommendation. Upon designation, that judge shall become full-time. Prior to making its request, the supreme court shall receive the approval of the fiscal committee and there shall be funds in the court's budget specifically appropriated for the salary and benefits of an additional full-time probate judge.

4 New Paragraph; Venue; Notice; Optional Manner of Service of Petitions. Amend RSA 458:9 by inserting after paragraph II the following new paragraph:

II-a. In lieu of service as described in paragraph II, the court may, after issuing orders of notice, send notice to the respondent indicating that the petition has been filed and that the respondent or the respondent's attorney may accept service at the court within 10 days. If neither the respondent nor the attorney for the respondent accepts service at the court within 10 days as specified in the correspondence, the petition shall be forwarded to the petitioner for service in accordance with paragraph II.

5 Repeal. The following are repealed:

I. RSA 490:33 – 490:35, relative to the family division.

II. RSA 491:20-a – 491:20-c, relative to marital masters.

6 Effective Date.

I. Paragraph II of section 5 of this act shall take effect July 1, 2005 at 12:01 a.m.

II. The remainder of this act shall take effect July 1, 2005.

LBAO

05-0718

Revised 2/23/05

HB 686 FISCAL NOTE

AN ACT relative to the judicial branch family division.

FISCAL IMPACT:

      The Judicial Branch has determined this bill will increase state general fund expenditures by $453,958 in FY 2006, $566,260 in FY 2007, $990,043 in FY 2008, and $1,080,554 in FY 2009. The Branch has determined this bill will increase state restricted revenue by $394,633 in FY 2006, $600,004 in FY 2007, $783,644 in FY 2008, and $1,128,507 in FY 2009. There will be no fiscal impact on county and local revenue and expenditures.

METHODOLOGY:

    The Judicial Branch states this bill establishes the Judicial Branch Family Division in all 10 counties. The Judicial Branch states increased costs from expanding the Family Division will be $453,958 in FY 2006, $566,260 in FY 2007, $990,043 in FY 2008, and $1,080,554 in FY 2009. Increased costs include clerical salaries and benefits, marital master salaries and benefits, travel, and equipment. The Branch states the Family Division will also utilize general funds made available by the retirement of four Superior Court judges and one marital master, including $168,411 in FY 2007, $168,411 in FY 2008, and $795,015 in FY 2009.

    The Judicial Branch states judicial resources will be transferred to the Family Division from the Probate and District Courts based on the recently-updated judicial weighted caseload. When the Family Division is fully implemented, no Superior Court judicial resources will be used. The Branch also states clerical positions from the District, Probate, and Superior Courts will be transferred to the Family Division. In addition, appropriated funds for operating costs will be transferred to the Family Division from the other courts in proportion to the clerical weighted caseload being transferred to the Family Division. Travel expenses are expected to exceed currently appropriated amounts because of the use of regional court clerks, case managers, marital masters, and referees who will be required to cover multiple court sites. Increased costs listed above include an additional $535 for travel for each court site in which the Family Division is to be implemented.

    The Judicial Branch states it anticipates greater participation by the federal government through the IV-D program which provides federal support for state courts hearing child support enforcement matters. The Branch estimates the percentage of marital masters’ salaries and benefits attributable to IV-D cases will increase from the present 25% to 45% through improved processes for identifying existing IV-D cases and from an increase in the number of new IV-D cases, as case managers make an effort to fully explain the benefits of the program. The Branch states increased federal revenue from the IV-D program will be $394,633 in FY 2006, $600,004 in FY 2007, $783,644 in FY 2008, and $1,128,507 in FY 2009.

Links

HB686 at GenCourtMobile

Action Dates

Date Body Type

Bill Text Revisions

HB686 Revision: 9093 Date: Jan. 21, 2010, midnight

Docket