If you are getting divorced in New Hampshire, you should learn about what property you get to keep and what you have to split with your spouse. You also want to know who will be responsible for any marital debts?
New Hampshire is an equitable distribution state. This means that property will be divided between spouses in a way that is equitable. Equitable division does not have to be equal, but the court must start by presuming that all of the property will be divided evenly between the spouses. A 50-50 split is not always fair, especially where you don’t want to share the valuable painting your parents gave you (or anything else that belonged to you alone) before or during marriage. In that case, you will have the chance to tell the court what you believe you should keep for yourself and whether any other assets or debts should be distributed differently. Once you convince the court that an unequal division is more equitable than an equal one, the court will consider a comprehensive list of factors to shift the balance of property from one spouse to the other.
If you think you could do a better job than a court in dividing your own property, then you will have many opportunities throughout your divorce to do just that. As long as you can work with your spouse, then you are free to agree between yourselves on how to split your property. If you decide, for example, to sell the house and divide the proceeds unequally, or to let your spouse take the snowmobile while you keep all of your retirement benefits, then you can submit a proposed property settlement to the court. Usually, the court will accept this type of agreement without further involvement. On the other hand, if you can’t work together, or if there are certain items of property that you can’t agree on, then the court will decide for you.
Learn more about Getting a Divorce in New Hampshire.
At First, Everything is Marital Property
In New Hampshire, the court presumes that everything you own – regardless of when you acquired it, who gave it to you, and what the title says about ownership – is marital property that will be divided equally with your spouse at divorce. Common types of property divided at divorce are real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property like income, retirement benefits, and debts.
At first, the court treats all assets and debts as marital property. Even, for example, the land you bought on your own before marriage, the education savings account you set up with your spouse for your children, or your spouse’s credit card debt are included. Then, if either spouse has a good reason why property should be divided unequally or assigned just to one spouse, then the court will apply the factors below to determine an equitable distribution. Whether something is a good reason will depend on the circumstances of the marriage. If the two of you acquired sufficient property during the marriage such that it is fair to leave the separate property each of you owned before marriage out of the division, then that could be a basis to exclude property. Likewise, if your spouse racked up credit card debt while carrying on an adulterous affair, then that would also be a good reason for your spouse to pay for that debt.
Factors for Equitable Division
The court considers the following factors to make an equitable distribution of property.
- length of the marriage
- the spouses’ ages, health, social or economic status, occupation, vocational skills, employability, separate property, amount and sources of income, and needs and liabilities
- the spouses’ opportunities for future acquisition of capital assets and income
- the ability of the custodial parent to engage in gainful employment without substantially interfering with the interests of any minor children
- the need of the custodial parent to live in the family home
- actions of either spouse during marriage which contributed to growth or diminution in value of property
- significant disparity between the parties in relation to contributions to the marriage, including contributions to the care and education of the children and care and management of the home
- contributions by one spouse to educate or develop the career of the other and any interruption of a spouse’s education or career to benefit the other’s career, the marriage or children
- the expectation of pension or retirement rights acquired prior to or during the marriage
- tax consequences
- value of property that is allocated by prenuptial contract
- a spouse’s fault in causing the marriage to fail if it also caused substantial physical or mental pain and suffering or resulted in substantial economic loss to the marital estate or other spouse
- value of any property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage
- the value of property acquired by gift, devise, or descent, and
- any other relevant factor.
Alimony Determined Separately
Once the court gives the final order divorcing you from your spouse, you have up to five years to request alimony (although in reality, most people who need it will ask for alimony during the divorce process). Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other to help sustain the recipient spouse after divorce. In New Hampshire, the court will order alimony if you lack sufficient income, property, or both to meet your reasonable needs. In so doing, the court evaluates your marital standard of living, your spouse’s ability to pay, and your ability to work to support yourself. If you have custody of a child whose condition makes it difficult to work outside of the home, then that circumstance will weigh in your favor.
(Find more answers in New Hampshire Alimony FAQs).
You can read the law on division of property and alimony in the New Hampshire Statutes Sections 458:16a and 458:19 respectively. If you would like to read all of the grounds for a fault-based divorce, see New Hampshire Statutes Section 458:7.