ADR and Requests that the Court Change a Court Order

In the case called In the Matter of Conner and Conner (25 Sept. 2007), the New Hampshire Supreme Court referred to the language in the court's standard parenting plan form about the use of a third party neutral to assist in working out disagreements. The Court called this as an "apparently mandatory mutually agreed-upon obligation" and stated "we expect parties to comply with such provisions in parenting plans." In most cases, this would mean trying mediation before filing to reopen the case.

One of the recently revised forms from the Judicial Branch includes a new question based on I/M/O Conner. This is the Petition to Change Court Order. Paragraph 5 of the petition asks: What have you done to resolve matters before you filed this Petition to Change Court Order?

It is certainly good to encourage working out issues themselves or with the help of mediators, but the Court in I/M/O Conner expected this to happen specifically when the parenting plan included such an obligation. The petition form is implying that it is required whenever an order is to be changed, including the USO, the divorce agreement (final stip), a pre-RSA 461-A order, or one from the court in a litigated case. (How the trial courts will interpret this is yet to be seen.)

Note - Since I/M/O Conner, some lawyers have been changing the "shalls" to "mays" the parenting plan paragraph H on "Methods for Resolving Disputes."

Tags: alternative dispute resolution, changing court orders, nh divorce law

Posted July 10, 2008

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