When you are going through a divorce, you undoubtedly have many questions about the process to include whether alimony will be an element of it and how alimony in New Hampshire works. It’s important to be familiar with the basics of the process, so you will know what to expect if you must indeed deal with alimony in New Hampshire as part of your divorce.
What Is Alimony?
Merriam-Webster defines alimony as an allowance that is made to one spouse by the other for support during or after a legal separation or divorce. Perhaps you have heard about alimony in movies, TV shows, or your own life.
In New Hampshire, alimony and spousal support mean the same thing. We will use them interchangeably throughout this article.
Types of Alimony in New Hampshire
When a husband and wife agree on a divorce, many changes and modifications can be completed if the parties involved agree on it, which could involve custody arrangements and alimony.
In some cases, a divorce may include stipulations that involve ordering one of the parties to pay out to the opposing party, so he or she can maintain the lifestyle he or she has become accustomed to.
Under special conditions, a spouse may be able to receive alimony payments. For instance, you can request alimony monies if you file within five years of the divorce decree.
Alimony awards may be temporary or permanent. They may even last for a set time period. When granting alimony, the court has to find a few factors to be true:
- The receiving spouse party must lack income or real estate. He or she must request the alimony as a way to provide for his or her needs, including the lifestyle he or she was accustomed to. This spouse is essentially asking for financial support as a way to live the life he or she had when the marriage was still active.
- The payor spouse must be able to fill the request, which should take the previously enjoyed lifestyle into account that both parties became accustomed to during the marriage. Essentially, the payor has to be able to make payments without damaging his or her own way of life.
- The receiving spouse must not be able to maintain self-sufficiency through employment, or he or she must be a stay-at-home a parent. The receiving spouse must also be seeking a career that would easily give him or her the income he or she needs. This lack of income must be caused by lack of skills or outdated abilities, due to being a primary caregiver or homemaker.
The Alimony Process
In order for the court to reach an agreement about how much the payor spouse should pay the receiving spouse, they will take many other factors into consideration.
Based on the examination of these factors, the court will ultimately figure out how much money should be awarded, and whether it should be provided as a lump sum or periodic payments.
Here are some of the factors the court considers when deciding specific alimony payments:
- The duration of the union
- The economic status, health, and age of the parties
- The amount of income earned from employment, the type of employment, and other sources of income
- Property that is given as a result of RSA 458:16-a
- Job/vocational abilities and the ability to find employment
- The needs and estate liabilities of each party
- The opportunities to acquire an income and capital assets in the future
- The faults for each of the parties, as stated by RSA 458:16
- The tax consequences of the alimony order (federal)
Additionally, the courts shall examine the incomes of each of the parties, but they will not consider a minor child’s SSI benefit checks or the money made by a new spouse or second spouse. Therefore, even if you or your spouse marries a millionaire, this factor will NOT be considered when figuring out how much money he or she should pay out to the other party.
Additionally, the court will examine both spouses’ contributions to their marital home, which could include the purchase, upkeep, increase in value (appreciation), and nonmonetary contributions that each person gave.
Perhaps the courts conclude that alimony should NOT be awarded, or they deny the request. Either way, they will be sure to specify why they made this decision in writing.
Special Note: RSA 458:16-a & RSA 458:19
Unlike other states, New Hampshire has a special statute known as RSA 458:16-a. This statute helps determine how marital property is defined and divided, and it controls the division of marital property. Marital property is usually defined as all property that was owned by both parties at the time of the divorce.
The NH statute demands the consideration of the equal division of marital property between the divorcing spouses, but this consideration can be thwarted if one party demonstrates that an equal division would not be feasible or appropriate, given the circumstances of each party’s life.
Alimony is also controlled by a New Hampshire statute known as RSA 458:19. In general, a party may be eligible to receive alimony if:
- The receiving spouse lacks enough assets or income to sustain his or her lifestyle.
- The payor spouse can provide the monies without letting any of his or her own reasonable needs fall by the wayside.
- The receiving spouse is unable to independently establish a source of income.
Be sure to ask your attorney if you need to find out more about the specifics of these statues.
Is There a Formula for Alimony in NH?
As far as calculating the amount of alimony a person can get in New Hampshire, there is no specific mathematical formula.
The justice of the peace would use the factors discussed in this article to figure out the exact amount and duration of the award.
More Factors that Affect Alimony
After the court has concluded that spousal support is appropriate for your situation, it will also take a look at other factors to decide how much money you will get, and how long the payments will last.
Here are some factors your judge will consider:
- The length of your marriage
- The health, age, sources of income, economic status, and employment ability of each spouse
- Any property that was awarded to either party during the divorce
- Any future chances for either one of the spouses to acquire income or assets
Other extreme factors may also be considered, including adultery, cruelty to an extreme degree, constant intoxication, and abuse (emotional or physical). In the state of New Hampshire, these criteria are all grounds for divorce.
Suppose your spouse’s abuse prevented you from keeping and working a steady job. If so, you may be entitled to alimony payments.
A justice will also examine the economic and noneconomic contributions each person made to the family’s well-being. Examples of noneconomic contributions are staying at home and caring for the kids.
In the state of New Hampshire, a court can order alimony to be paid as:
- A lump sum (which is rather uncommon)
- Payments that are made over a set period of time. (Monthly payments are the most common.)
If a lump -sum payout is ordered, it can be in the form of cash or real estate.
Can Alimony Be Changed?
The court might set a time limit or termination on an alimony award. For instance, your alimony may stop ten years after the date of your divorce, or it may stop if you get remarried.
Perhaps no end date is specified, or you do not remarry. Either way, you may very well be eligible to receive alimony for the rest of your life.
Even if the court sets an end date for these payments, either spouse can ask the court to renew the alimony order, as long as the request is made within five years of the termination date. Keep in mind that this scenario rarely occurs. If circumstances change, either spouse may ask the court to make changes to the alimony order. Changes may involve an increase or decrease in either spouse’s earnings, which has caused support payments to become less fair.
However, if the payor spouse becomes unemployed or underemployed of his or her own accord, the court may engage in “imputing income.” In other words, this spouse will pay support based on his or her earning power, rather than actual earnings.
In short, quitting your job or downgrading to a lower-paying salary will not get you out of paying alimony.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
The duration of your alimony will be determined by a justice of the peace in a New Hampshire Family Court.
The length of the award is based on the length of the marriage. Here is one common rule: For every three years of marriage, one year of alimony shall be paid. However, the outcome of your case will vary, and it is ultimately up to the judge to decide how long it will continue.
Alimony may be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis, and for a definite or indefinite time period. Older versions of the alimony statute placed a limit of three years on alimony for couples with no minors.
However, these limitations have been removed. In other words, the court could order a permanent alimony award, if the facts and circumstances surrounding such a measure justify this decision.
What If I Do Not Pay Alimony?
If you unlawfully stop paying alimony in New Hampshire, this action is known as alimony arrears. This debt may be collected in a few different ways: mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment.
If you do not comply with a court-mandated alimony order, it could lead to a contempt-of-court charge against the spouse who did not pay the alimony he or she owed.
Does Adultery Affect Alimony?
A spouse’s marital misconduct may affect alimony in New Hampshire. For instance, such misconduct will prevent a cheating spouse from getting spousal support. However, in order for adultery to make an unfaithful spouse ineligible for support, these three factors must be met:
- This marital misconduct must be the reason for the divorce.
- The misconduct must cause serious mental or physical suffering to the spouse who remained faithful.
- The adultery must cause serious financial damage to the faithful spouse or the marital estate.
When a divorce is caused by one spouse’s infidelity, the faithful spouse can probably prove that he or she mentally suffered because of these actions.
However, the last factor may require the faithful spouse to show that the cheating spouse caused financial harm. For instance, he or she might demonstrate that the unfaithful spouse spent large amounts of money on the extramarital affair by purchasing gifts for his or her lover, renting a hotel room, or going on trips with the other person.
When courts decide how to divide up the money and property of a divorcing couple, adultery and other types of misconduct are considered when courts decide how to divide up the money and property of a divorcing couple. Furthermore, a spouse who remained faithful but was financially dependent on the cheating spouse may get a larger share of the marital estate.
Alimony can become a dіffiсult іѕѕuе during a divorce. It mаkеѕ a rough road even rосkіеr. Hоwеvеr, arming yourself with basic information on alimony in New Hampshire coupled with the assistance of your legal team, will help make the process as smooth as possible.