If you are the non-accused, non-custodial parent of a child who is the subject of an abuse or neglect filing by the Division of Children, Youth and Families, the outcome of the case could have a substantial affect on your parental rights. Although non-accused, if a finding of true is entered, the parents of the child have an obligation to correct the conditions that led to the finding of neglect. If the conditions have not been corrected within twelve months of the finding, your parental rights could be terminated, even if you are the non-accused parent. Accordingly, it is very important to be well versed on your rights and, if possible, hire an attorney to represent you.
Request for custody
As the parent who does not live with the child and is not alleged to have abused or neglected your child, you have the right to petition the court for a “Bill F” hearing. The hearing is titled after the New Hampshire Supreme Court case, In Re Bill F, in which the court held that parents who have not been charged with abuse or neglect must be afforded, upon demand, a hearing regarding their request for custody. At the Bill F hearing, a parent must show that he or she has the ability to provide care for the child. If shown, the court shall award custody unless the State demonstrates, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she has abused or neglected the child or is otherwise unfit to perform his or her parental duties.
Right to an attorney
A parent who has been accused of abuse or neglect has the right to have an attorney represent him or her throughout the case, and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent them. Not so for the non-accused, non-household parent. Although you will have the right to hire an attorney at your own expense, RSA 169-C:10, specifically prohibits the court from appointing an attorney to represent you. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed in the case of In Re Father, holding that the statute prohibiting the appointment of an attorney to represent a non-accused, non-custodial parent does not violate the Due Process Clause of the State Constitution.