Alimony is financial support paid by one spouse to the other for living expenses and reasonable necessities after a divorce. In New Hampshire, the court will make an order for alimony if it finds that three things are true:
- you do not have sufficient income or property to provide for your reasonable needs
- your spouse is financially able to support both of you, and
- you are not able to support yourself or you have special responsibilities for a child that would make it inappropriate for you to seek employment outside of the home.
In this evaluation, the concept of “reasonable need” is based on the standard of living that was established during the marriage.
Determining the Amount and Duration of Alimony
After the court determines that spousal support is appropriate, it will examine other elements to decide how much the payment will be, and how long the payments will last. The judge will consider:
- the length of the marriage
- each spouse’s age, health, sources of income, economic status, and employability
- any property awarded to either spouse during divorce, and
- future opportunities for either spouse to acquire assets and income.
The court may even factor in things like adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and abuse—the fault grounds for divorce in New Hampshire. So if your spouse’s substance abuse or domestic violence in your home have prevented you from holding a steady job, you may be entitled to alimony.
A judge will also look at the economic and noneconomic contribution of each spouse to the family. Staying at home and caring for the household and children would be a significant noneconomic contribution to the family, and is just as important as earning income.
In New Hampshire, a court can order alimony to be paid as a lump sum (less common), or as recurring payments over a period of time (most commonly, in monthly payments). A lump sum payout can be in cash or even real estate.
New Hampshire doesn’t have any mathematical formula to determine alimony; the judge would use the factors described above in determining how much alimony is to be paid, and for how long.
Modifying or Terminating Alimony Payments
The court may set a time limit or a terminating event on an alimony order. For example, your alimony may end five years from the date of your divorce, or whenever you get remarried. If there’s no end date specified, you never remarry, and both your circumstances and those of your ex-spouse stay the same, then you may be entitled to receive alimony for the rest of your life. Even if the court set an ending date for alimony, then either spouse can ask the court to renew that alimony order, as long as the request is made within five years of the terminating date.
That rarely happens, however. Either spouse can ask the court at any time to modify the alimony order if circumstances do change. Changed circumstances could be an increase or decrease in either spouse’s income so that the support payments are no longer fair. However, if the paying spouse becomes voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute income and make that spouse pay support based on earning capacity rather than actual earnings. In other words, you will not be able to avoid alimony payments by quitting your job or taking a pay cut.
Alimony is tax deductible to the paying spouse and is reportable as income by the receiving spouse.
New Hampshire Statutes
Section 458:7 Absolute Divorce, Generally
Section 458:19: Alimony