House Backs Bills Impacting Family Court

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The House of Representatives met Thursday in Representatives Hall at the State House.


CONCORD – Thursday’s House session began with divisive laws regarding Children and Family Law. In two tight votes, the House narrowly passed HB 1192 and HB 1659, which impact how family court would handle difficult family dynamics and parenting obligations.

The first, HB 1192, “provides a process, standards, and remedies for contempt of court in domestic relations matters,” including the possibility of a parent being incarcerated until they comply with the court order that they have violated “without just cause.”

The bill specifies that such violations apply to matters “pertaining to abuse, alimony, annulment, child support, divorce, legal separation, parenting, or any other matter for which the judicial branch family division has jurisdiction.” Thus, if a parent fails to comply with a court order under those circumstances, they would be subject to paying for the other party’s legal fees as well as potential incarceration under this law.

Rep. Alicia Gregg, D-Nashua, was especially concerned about the clause that could potentially put one parent in jail if they are in contempt of court.

“This bill is not helpful and it is not necessary,” Gregg said.

Rep. Debra DeSimone, R-Atkinson, the prime sponsor of the bill, urged its passage, claiming that it would provide “clear consistent guidance to the family court where it is asked for and needed” in regard to court violations.

The bill passed with a vote of 187 to 178.

HB 1659 was then introduced, relating to information access and parenting schedules. The proposed legislation permits both parents to access all records and information of their children, while also mandating a court to award a parent additional parenting time if another parent is noncompliant with the parenting schedule. In addition, the bill permits a court to fine the parent for noncompliance with either the mandate to share records or with the parenting schedule.

Rep. Heather Raymond, D-Nashua, argued that there are already procedures in place to deal with similar circumstances without “ignoring complex family dynamics,” as she feels this bill would. She went as far as to say the bill “mandates judges ignore the best interests of the child.”

Raymond proposed a hypothetical situation where an abusive, alcoholic mother hits a child and DCYF is called to investigate and the child is sent to live with the father. Under this bill, she said, the judge would be required to award that mother for time lost while the child was with the father, and for the family to return to the initial parenting schedule. Since New Hampshire law requires extreme injury before the state can act, Raymond said, this law would put the child in danger through strict adherence to parental scheduling.

“This bill uses a sledgehammer where a scalpel is needed,” Raymond said.

Rep. Mark Pearson, R-Hampstead, chair of the Children and Family Law Committee, spoke in favor of the bill. He argued that it would “give the courts a better enforcement mechanism against the disregarding of court-ordered parenting plans.”

“We need to do this for the children,” Pearson said.

HB 1659 passed with a vote of 189 to 176.

Ani Freedman is a contract reporter with She is a recent graduate from Columbia Journalism School with a passion for environmental, health, and accountability reporting. In her free time, she’s an avid runner and run coach. She can be reached at

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