When clients come in to talk with us about divorce, we are often asked whether they can get alimony or “spousal support”. Contrary to child support, alimony is intended to support the spouse. It can be ordered in those cases in which one spouse has “need” and the other spouse has the “ability to pay”. “Need” does not mean poverty, but instead, “need” considering the standard of living the parties had during the marriage. Likewise, “ability to pay” also must consider whether that spouse can pay alimony to the other spouse and still meet his/her own needs considering the standard of living the parties had during the marriage. This often requires the Court to perform a balancing test, comparing the income versus expenses of both spouses, cutting some discretionary expenses of one spouse to ensure that necessary expenses of both spouses can be met.
Once the Court finds a spouse has “need” and the other spouse has the “ability to pay”, the Court then needs to determine how much alimony to award and for how long. Until 2019, this determination was done case by case, with an intent to be rehabilitative which means to assist the spouse in getting back on his/her feet again. In 2019, New Hampshire passed a new alimony statute which established the amount of alimony would be the lesser of the person’s actual need or a specific percentage of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes, after considering child support ordered. The alimony percentage is currently equal to 23% of the difference between the spouses’ gross incomes. The statute also established that alimony could be ordered for up to half of the length of the parties’ marriage. Rather than orders for alimony for only a few years as was common before 2019, we are now seeing alimony orders for a much longer period of time, if the parties had a long-term marriage.
Many believed that with the passage of the alimony statute in 2019, there would be less arguments and less litigation about alimony. That has not proven to be the case. Just as many divorce cases argue about alimony now, if not more, than before 2109. We have observed a couple of reasons for this. First, the same arguments still exist pertaining to a spouse’s “need” and the other spouse’s “ability to pay”. Arguments typically involve an unemployed or under-employed spouse, or a spouse’s unreasonable spending. Most paying spouses don’t believe they can afford to pay alimony. Second, with a statute in place that provides a simple calculation, more spouses believe they are entitled to alimony and are willing to spend the money to try to get alimony even if they would not have done so before the statute was in place.
If you have questions about alimony, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC. We can provide you with realistic information and advice to help you determine whether to seek alimony or whether to fight a spouse who is seeking alimony. We can also assist with the Collaborative Divorce process if your case is a fit.
We have 2 office locations: 25 Nashua Rd., Suite C5, Londonderry, NH 03053. Phone number is (603) 434-6331. Our 2nd office is at 137 Main St., P.O Box 669, N. Woodstock, NH 03262. Phone number is (603) 745-8600.