In New Hampshire, the court has the authority to issue an order for alimony. Alimony is spousal support. It is usually intended that alimony is rehabilitative. In other words, it is a payment for a period of time to allow a spouse to get back on their feet and to become self- sufficient. The current alimony statute in New Hampshire, RSA 458:19, provides that the Court shall make an alimony award if the court finds that the party in need lacks sufficient income, property, or both to provide for that party’s reasonable needs, and that the party from whom alimony is sought is able to meet their reasonable needs while meeting those of the party seeking alimony. This two part test generally is very fact specific. The Court will analyze whether the party seeking alimony is unable to meet their reasonable needs taking into consideration the style of living the parties were living while married. Once the Court determines that a spouse is in need of alimony, the analysis then shifts to the paying spouse to determine whether that spouse can afford to pay alimony. Because this analysis depends a lot on the individual parties and their financial circumstances, there is a wide variety of outcomes that can occur, which does not give parties a lot of direction in determining if alimony will be ordered, and if so, how much will be ordered and for how long will the paying spouse be required to pay the alimony.
Because of the difficulty in predicting outcomes, parties are oftentimes unwilling to reach agreement if they and their attorneys cannot agree on a likely outcome should they go to court on the issue of alimony. To help this uncertainty, there is currently a bill pending in the New Hampshire legislature that would change the alimony statute and would, hopefully, provide more guidance to individuals and attorneys on what a likely outcome would be. The proposed bill introduces a formula which essentially provides that the amount of alimony shall be the lesser of the individual’s needs, or 30% of the difference between the parties’ incomes. The bill also provides clarification that the maximum duration of the alimony award shall be ½ of the duration of the marriage. This bill, if it is passed, is likely to provide additional guidance to practitioners and parties when trying to determine an appropriate alimony award.