Adultery in New Hampshire: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

If you’re getting divorced in New Hampshire, and your spouse has cheated on you, will it have an impact on any alimony award?

By , Attorney · Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School

Adultery and divorce seem to go hand-in-hand: When one spouse is unfaithful, often the other spouse loses trust in the cheating spouse and the marriage is over. Although adultery might be the reason for your divorce, it won't necessarily affect any alimony decision. Every state's alimony laws are different; here's a breakdown of how New Hampshire's alimony law address adultery.

Overview of Alimony in New Hampshire

"Alimony" is court-ordered financial support paid by one spouse (the "paying spouse") to the other spouse (the "supported spouse") during or after a divorce. Under New Hampshire divorce laws, a judge may order a spouse with financial resources to pay alimony to a needy spouse. Specifically, a spouse who doesn't have enough income or property to pay for basic necessities might be eligible to receive alimony. However, a judge won't order alimony unless the paying spouse has enough money to pay expenses while supporting the other spouse.

A New Hampshire judge can order that alimony be paid periodically or in a lump-sum (or both). "Lump-sum alimony" is a one-time alimony payment made by a transfer of either money or property. "Periodic alimony" is usually an amount paid on a monthly basis for a set amount of time. Periodic alimony can be temporary (has an end date) or permanent (lasts until either spouse dies or the supported spouse gets remarried).

How New Hampshire Courts Determine Alimony

New Hampshire judges award alimony only when the supported spouse can't self-support and the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. After determining that alimony is necessary, New Hampshire judges evaluate the following factors to determine how much alimony to award:

  • length of the marriage
  • each spouse's age and health (including mental health)
  • each spouse's occupation
  • each spouse's regular income and employment
  • property awarded in the divorce
  • each spouse's jobs skills and employability
  • each spouse's debts, assets, and financial needs
  • each spouse's potential income or expected inheritance
  • each spouse's contributions to the marriage (financial and non-financial), and
  • either spouse's marital fault.

In New Hampshire, a spouse can petition the court for alimony up to five years after a divorce is final. If the supported spouse's financial circumstances change at any time, a judge can modify (change) the alimony award. There's no exact formula to calculate alimony in New Hampshire; each alimony award is determined on a case-by-case basis. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 458:19-a (2021).)

Does Committing Adultery in New Hampshire Affect Whether the Court Will Grant a Divorce?

Like every other state, New Hampshire allows couples to file for divorce on no-fault grounds. Spouses seeking a no-fault divorce need to only claim "irreconcilable differences" for a judge to grant their divorce. In other words, neither spouse has to prove the other's fault or responsibility for the divorce. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 458:7-a (2021).)

New Hampshire divorce laws also allow couples to obtain a divorce on the following fault-based grounds:

  • impotency
  • adultery
  • extreme cruelty
  • conviction of crime resulting in at least 1 year in prison
  • abandonment for at least 2 years
  • habitual drunkenness
  • membership in religious sect that believes the husband and wife relationship is unlawful, resulting in a spouse refusing to cohabit with the other for six months, and
  • refusal to cohabitate without cause or consent of the other spouse for at least 2 years.

(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 458:7 (2021).)

The spouse seeking a fault-based divorce must provide evidence of the other spouse's fault, such as an affair or cruel behavior. Although no-fault divorces are typically faster, some spouses seek fault-based divorces in the hope of gaining an advantage in negotiations.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony in New Hampshire?

Infidelity can affect alimony in New Hampshire—but it doesn't automatically bar the cheating spouse from getting alimony. For example, a judge might reduce (rather than refuse to order) the cheating spouse's alimony award based on marital fault. Or, if one spouse spent marital funds on gifts, hotel rooms, or vacations with a lover, a judge can reduce the adulterous spouse's property award in a divorce. Also, a faithful spouse who was financially dependent on the cheating spouse during the marriage might be given a larger portion of the couple's estate.

Does Adultery Affect Custody or Child Support in New Hampshire?

Adultery normally does not have an impact on custody or child support awards. A child's best interests—not a parent's marital fidelity—are central to any custody decision. However, when a parent had an affair with a convicted child abuser or the affair negatively impacted the children, a court may consider those facts when deciding child custody.