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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Petition for Fines over Fees in Family Courts

Indigent, Low Income and Middle Class families are purposefully being denied access to the New Hampshire Court System; by being denied relief from excessively high fees when seeking court intervention to uphold the orders they already made; leaving the ability to seek court enforcement of orders already to the rich.
The denial of court intervention is literally splitting Families apart; because they can no longer afford or could potentially never afford to get access to a court to be heard.  The NH Court system is depriving families based on their ability to pay. Without a consistent sliding fee schedule, nor are the fees consistent between courts. And it's wrong; due to the fact that orders in family law cases are NOT Enforceable outside the Court Room. When someone is in Contempt as in this Case and you do not have the ability to pay there is simply no recourse. 
The Court will moan that they are full and that the fees are to avert frivolous Motions; and/or that the Legislative Branch cut their budget and they have to pass it on to the public without putting thought into making their orders unbreakable.
Instead of fees to get into Court to be heard; how about fines for those breaking the orders and/or to a party who filed a frivolous motion?
In New Hampshire their Constitution states in Part 1 of their Bill of Rights:
[Art.] 14. [Legal Remedies to be Free, Complete, and Prompt.] Every subject of this state is entitled to a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries he may receive in his person, property, or character; to obtain right and justice freely, without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; conformably to the laws.
Yet, the excessive fees exist and are also in opposition to NH RSA 461:A:4-a where the “Law” specially states that Contempt is suppose to be heard within 30 days; there is no legislative intent to deny that right - if a party can't pay.  In fact legislators have only invoked a surcharge of $25.00 on appeals to the Supreme Ct. It would seem that the right decision and reasonable solution would be for the Courts to take measures in Family Law Cases to deter contempt. As a single parent, I and too many other families cannot afford to pay $252.00 to file contempt, when it happens numerous times during the year or even once.
If the Family Court had a consistent system in place that penalized parties who filed frivolous motions and/or failed to follow Court Orders; families would not be denied their rights.
Imagine a parent who is suppose to be receiving child support and is not; under the fee schedule they would pay $252.00 to bring the matter forward; hardly possible when they are lacking funds in the first place. Now if the parties are in agreement about a ‘change’ in child support - the fee goes down to $127.00. How many times does that happen? And if it does happen why drag them into court sign it? Approved it, approve all agreements and move on.
Some reasonable creative sanctions or measures in every Family Court to deter repeat visits and repeat litigation would be;

     1. Consistency between the courts, no more than one or two Judges max on a case; to understand the cases in front them; because New Judges have no time to review the file in front of them to see whose doing what and/or to see if a party is escalating.

Unenforced Court orders in this State have had disastrous results in this case; 2 died there was a least 5 Judges on the case, it’s in Concord and open to the public; as you read through it is shocking, horrible, sad and could have possibly been avoidable.  In this case 2 people also died; because the visitation center did not have a police officer on to check for weapons as they note in their own procedures they “may do”; obviously they should.

      2. Follow the LAW; if a parent denies another parent the right to see their child/children or fails to follow the court ordered parenting plan then give them a fine, right there. They do it - to collect in Child Support Cases every Friday, in Nashua, NH; if they repeat, increase the fine; 3rd time? Give them weekend jail time with a fine.  Deter the bad behavior.

3. Moreover, contempt or a motion to compel should only be heard by a Judge, not pushed into mediation. (additional expenses) Evidence heard, order made, follow it. Nor should it be review by a Marital Master who cannot under the law make such orders and who have actually been relieved of their duties by the Legislative Branch; effective 1/13/12.
 4.  Accountability by the Court itself; will model the behavior of the people they rule over.
People might actually get the message that not following the law or court orders actually does have repercussions. Chaos happens when nothing is done; when a party is vindicated it releases hostility and the party penalized for bad acts; starts to behave. And All can move on to “happily ever after” by spending less time in court, clearing the docket and/or actually funding the Chief Justice's plan to provide electronic access to the courts. 

I am just a Mom, who pursued a legal education to understand the courts; I have been an activist for family & child rights. Active in my community volunteering; and I am a home owner whose taxes actually go toward the Courts. I do community and legal research and often blog about it. I hear the same story of excessive fees, court orders not enforced over and over and I know that frustration.

Children and parents need consistency.  It’s really simple, like the other parents in these “Family Courts” I want the other parent to follow the court orders, not interrupt parenting time and in my case not expose him to doctors the Court Recognized as “Not Capable”.
So after filing a Reconsideration on the denial to a Motion for a waiver of Court Fees and Motion for alternative service, they are denying not just me; but hundreds of others the opportunity to be heard.  Filing an appeal in the NH Supreme Court, will only be a discretionary appeal which means they do not even have to hear it and if they do not the Chaos continues.   
A two-tier system that is leaving families and children at risk; your Signature on this Petition will help send a strong message to the New Hampshire Supreme Court that the wide discretion they allowing, is failing families; excessive fees deny justice and failing to uphold their own orders is a waste of the tax-payers money and dangerous to the community.
“Fine the party responsible for the action and make some order out of the chaos you created.”  
Instead of fees to get into Court to be heard; fines for those breaking the orders and/or to a party who filed a frivolous motion.
Together we can make a difference. Please Sign, your name, concerned citizen or anonymous but please Support this Petition; so we can help our neighbors compromise whenever possible and the courts can deescalate the worst times a family can go through; divorce. These are nice people struggling to move on to an alternate happily ever after.
Your support and signature can make that happen. Please forward to others and sign here: 
                “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
                                                                             Mark Twain


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