Alimony is financial support made to a spouse during and after a divorce. Under state law, spouses have a duty to financially support each other, and alimony acknowledges that this duty can continue even after a divorce or legal separation. Alimony is separate from any payments necessary for child support due to the nature of the child custody agreement between the spouses.
Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis in New Hampshire, and there is not a set formula used to calculate awards. To be eligible, you must first prove that:
- You do not have sufficient income and property to provide for your reasonable needs,
- Your spouse is capable of financially providing for both of your reasonable needs, and
- You cannot support yourself by finding appropriate employment or you cannot work due to your childcare responsibilities.
Your “reasonable needs” are based on your standard of living during your marriage.
Next, the courts evaluate a series of factors to calculate your alimony award:
- The length of your marriage,
- Each spouse’s age and health,
- Each spouses’ social and economic status,
- Each spouses’ employability, and vocational skills,
- Your financial resources and debts,
- Each spouses’ level of fault for the divorce, and
- The tax implications of an alimony award.
The court should also provide a written explanation of its award of alimony.
New Hampshire does not have a limit or cap on alimony. Instead, the courts must weigh the factors discussed above and determine how much support is appropriate. Under certain circumstances, alimony awards can be millions of dollars (but are typically more modest). Alimony can be paid in a lump sum or over time.
New Hampshire awards alimony on both a temporary and permanent basis—including while a divorce is pending. However, courts typically view alimony as a rehabilitative measure, and many alimony awards are now temporary (giving a spouse time to obtain job training and employment). Permanent alimony is increasingly rare.
Typically, spouses request alimony in their Petition for Divorce. However, you can file a motion for alimony up to five years after your divorce. If you plan on requesting alimony, seriously consider hiring a divorce lawyer. (It can be difficult for the average person to calculate and negotiate alimony awards.)
Additionally, an increasing number of couples are negotiating alimony in their settlement agreement. If you and your spouse can agree to a fair alimony amount, you can resolve this issue without the court’s involvement. Again, a lawyer can help you with these negotiations.
Finally, you can petition to have an alimony award modified under certain circumstances. Typically, you must show a substantial change in circumstances that merits a change in alimony payments. For example, alimony may be reduced or terminated if your ex-spouse is cohabitating with someone who provides significant financial support.
Petitioning or modifying an alimony award can be contentious and complicated. A local New Hampshire family lawyer can help you file a motion with the court, calculate a fair alimony award, and negotiate with your spouse.