WHAT IS A LONG TERM MARRIAGE?

Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Divorce, Family Law, Property Division

In New Hampshire, a court will make decisions about how assets will be divided, or whether alimony will be awarded by looking at a number of factors that is set forth in the statute. Generally, the Court will equitably divide the couple’s marital assets, but how to determine what is equitable depends upon the statutory factors.  One of those factors is whether or not the marriage is a long term marriage or a short term marriage.  Often in a “short term” marriage the Court will try to return the parties to their economic positions prior to the marriage.  Until recently, the Court did not specifically indicate whether it was appropriate to consider a period of cohabitation when determining how to equitably divide assets.  In August, 2016 the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a decision, In the matter of Deborah Munson and Coralee Beal that makes clear that the Court does have the authority to consider a period of cohabitation prior to the marriage when determining how to divide assets.  The Court did clarify that “duration of marriage” only refers to the period of time of an actual marriage and does not include any periods of cohabitation.  However, the Court can consider a period of premarital cohabitation when making an equitable distribution of marital assets.  For instance the Court recognized that when a divorcing couple’s relationship has included “years of economically interdependent cohabitation followed by a ‘short’ marriage, the notion of returning the parties to their original pre-marital position is unrealistic.”  For those individuals involved in relationships that included lengthy periods of cohabitation, this decision is good news that the Court will in fact consider those years when making its division of property.