The marriage relationship is supportive in nature. For that reason, courts in New Hampshire are sensitive to the needs of both spouses after divorce, and have the authority to order one spouse to pay financial support to the other for a specific period of time or indefinitely. This is known as alimony. Although there is no set formula for determining alimony in New Hampshire, there are certain factors a court considers when awarding or modifying it.
Overview of Alimony
The purpose of alimony is to further the same standard of living that a couple enjoyed during their marriage after divorce. If one spouse cannot be self-supporting, courts in New Hampshire look to the other spouse's ability to pay when determining an alimony award. Further, a judge has tremendous flexibility in ordering how long the support should last. For example, if one spouse has a disability that does not allow her to work, the award may last indefinitely. By contrast, the support may be rehabilitative in nature, meaning that the award will terminate after the completion of a specified an event, such as obtaining a college degree.
Judges in New Hampshire looks to several factors in determining the size and length of any alimony award. These factors include the length of the marriage, the specific needs of both parties, and each spouse's education and earning potential. The court may also take into consideration what each spouse received in terms of a property award from the divorce, as well as the federal tax consequences of the order on both parties.
A court may also take into account a spouse's actions if those actions were the reason for the divorce. This is known as a fault-based divorce. New Hampshire recognizes several fault-based grounds, including adultery and extreme cruelty. For example, when it comes to alimony, the court could conclude that the emotional or physical devastation caused by the guilty spouse justifies a larger award because it directly contributed to the other spouse's inability to become self-supporting. However, it is important to note that alimony is not awarded solely to punish the guilty spouse.
Modification of an Award
In New Hampshire, alimony awards terminate if the receiving spouse remarries. In addition, both permanent and temporary awards are subject to modification if the parties agree, or if a change of circumstances occurs. For all requests to modify alimony, the court looks at whether the financial situation of either party changes. An example is if the receiving spouse was awarded rehabilitative alimony to cover her expenses through college, but she became permanently disabled while in school.