Unlike child support which has a specific formula, in New Hampshire there is no formula for determining alimony in a divorce case. So how does a Judge decide whether alimony should be awarded and in what amount? It is essentially a “needs versus ability to pay” analysis. New Hampshire law, specifically N.H. RSA 458:19, I, permits the court to award alimony if it finds that:
- The party in need lacks sufficient income, property, or both, to provide for his or her reasonable needs, taking into account the style of living to which the parties have become accustomed during the marriage; and
- The party from whom alimony is sought is able to meet his or her own reasonable needs while paying alimony; and
- The party who needs alimony is unable to be self-supporting through appropriate employment or has parenting rights and responsibilities for a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside the home.
In determining the amount of alimony to be awarded, N.H. RSA 458:19, IV provides that the court shall consider the following factors:
- The length of the marriage;
- The age of each party;
- The health of each party;
- The social or economic status of each party;
- The occupation of each party;
- The amount and sources of income for each party;
- The property awarded to each party in the divorce;
- The vocational skills of each party;
- The employability of each party;
- The estate of each party;
- The liabilities of each party;
- The needs of each party;
- The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
- The fault of either part as defined in RSA 458:16-a, II(I); and
- The federal tax consequences of the order.
The court may also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in the value of their respective estates, as well as each party’s noneconomic contribution to the family unit.
These factors serve merely as a guideline for judges. A Judge must start with these factors and then use his or her discretion in determining whether alimony should be awarded, the proper amount, and the period of time that is appropriate. Since there is no prescribed formula, it is often difficult to predict how a Judge will rule on the issue. Two different judges may view the same set of facts completely differently. For these reasons, it is very important to have an experienced family law attorney to assist you.