Determining Alimony in New Hampshire
Divorcing couples in New Hampshire often ask whether the issue of alimony should be addressed in their divorce. Put simply, alimony is financial support paid by one spouse to the other for living expenses and reasonable necessities after a divorce. In New Hampshire, alimony is governed by NH RSA 458:19. Regardless of whether one spouse seeks alimony or both are looking to waive past and present alimony (New Hampshire laws do not allow parties to waive future alimony), the issue should always be addressed and made a part of the Final Decree.
When Will the Court Order Alimony?In New Hampshire, the Court must make three findings before it will enter an alimony Order. The three criteria that must be met are the following:1) The party in need lacks sufficient income, property or both to provide for reasonable needs taking into account the lifestyle during the marriage;2) The party who will pay alimony is able to meet reasonable needs while paying the alimony, taking into account the lifestyle during his/her marriage; and3) The party in need is unable to be self-supporting through employment at a standard of living that meets reasonable needs.Essentially, the court must find that the spouse seeking alimony needs it, and the spouse paying alimony can afford to pay it. The concept of "reasonable needs" is prevalent in this determination. The party to a divorce must understand that reasonable need is not based on what is the "reasonable need" to a citizen of New Hampshire. Rather, reasonable need is established on a case by case basis, and is determined by the standard of living that was established during the marriage in question.
How is Alimony Determined?The alimony statute referenced above sets out specific factors that the court must consider when determining the amount of alimony to award. A Court will consider the following: o length of marriage;o the age, health, and social or economic status of each spouse;o each spouse's occupation;o the amount of income for each spouse;o the property awarded to each spouse in the divorce;o the vocational skills and employability of each spouse;o the estate, liabilities, and needs of each spouse;o each spouse's opportunity to acquire assets and earn income in the future;o the fault of either spouse in the divorce; ando the federal income tax consequences of the order.
Formula to Determine Amount?There is no mathematical formula to determine alimony. The judge has broad discretion in determining how long the alimony award will last and the amount of the alimony that must be paid. The Court must set forth specific reasons for granting or denying alimony.
Is it Fault Based?Regarding "fault," although generally inadmissible in a no fault divorce, evidence of fault may be admissible on the issue of alimony, at the discretion of the court. This means the court may factor in such things as adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and abuse in determining an alimony award, even if the divorce is no fault.