New Hampshire law permits a Judge to make an alimony award in a divorce or legal separation. The law is RSA 458:19. The Legislature has tinkered with the law of the years, but for more than 20 years the basic concept has remained the same: if one spouse earns enough income to meet personal reasonable needs, and the other spouse doesn’t, the first spouse can be ordered to pay alimony to the second spouse. The likelihood of alimony is greater in a long term marriage. The challenge in cases where there is a probable alimony award is the amount and for how long. Alimony can be awarded in a certain amount for a certain amount of time, or permanently (which is uncommon). It can be a decreasing amount over a defined period. It can be a single payment. It is be up to the Judge to decide what is fair and appropriate under the particular facts of each case.
Unlike child support, there is no formula to calculate the amount or duration of alimony. As the law sets out, many factors have to be weighed, including: length of marriage, income-earning capacity, accustomed standard of living, ability to become financial independent, age, health, assets, reasonable needs, child care responsibilities. Because there are so many variables involved in the decision, it is difficult to predict an alimony award. As a result, the issue of alimony often compels a case to go to trial, sometimes for a decision on that sole remaining issue.
Just as with child support, a Judge has the discretion to later change an existing alimony award if a substantial change in the financial circumstances of the parties occurs. Such a change would include the paying or receiving ex-spouse’s income involuntarily becoming less, or the recipient ex-spouse’s financial picture significantly improving. The law would tend to disfavor having an ex-spouse reaping the benefit of the future prosperity of an ex-spouse, if reasonable needs had been met under the original alimony award. Also, a Judge has the power to grant a request for alimony for up to 5 years after the original divorce.
The Nashua family lawyers at Winer and Bennett have years of experience negotiating, mediating and advocating on the issue of alimony for clients going through the divorce and legal separation process. If you want legal counsel on the difficult issue of alimony, feel free to call (603) 882-5157 to set up an appointment.