Barriers to Justice for Low-Income Victims of Domestic Violence in New Hampshire


  • Virginia (Ginger) Schoff


  • Professor Alex Holznienkemper

Community partner

  • New Hampshire Legal Assistance


This research seeks to document barriers to justice in New Hampshire’s civil courts through the lens of people seeking Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPOs). In particular, Schoff’s research aims to answer the following question: Are people seeking DVPOs more likely to have their petitions granted by New Hampshire courts if they have access to professional legal assistance? 

New Hampshire’s minimal provisions for civil representation are more consistent with the position of most other states, and people seeking DVPOs in New Hampshire are responsible for retaining attorneys and paying out-of-pocket for legal fees or handling the legal process without counsel. Only 13% of people seeking DVPOs in New Hampshire had legal counsel in 2021.4 New Hampshire also stands out for its low success rate of DVPO petitions. Only 38% of DVPO petitions are granted out of the roughly 8,000 petitions filed every year.5 Compare this to Pennsylvania where the success rate for DVPO petitions is 89.6%.6 While Pennsylvania does not appoint counsel to indigent petitioners as New York does, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services funds the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Civil Legal Representation (CLR) Project to assist indigent residents in obtaining DVPOs.7 The CLR Project is a network of 18 legal centers across the state offering free counsel for DVPO petitioners.7 The proposed research will be conducted in collaboration with New Hampshire Legal Assistance and under the supervision of Professor Alex Holznienkemper and will examine how the presence of legal counsel impacts outcomes of DVPO petitions.