Top 5 Changes to the New Alimony Law

Katherine Muzzy, Esq.

Katherine Muzzy, Esq.

The new alimony law, SB 71, “relative to the law governing alimony,” was signed into law by Governor Sununu on June 25, 2018.  There are some major changes coming to alimony next year and we have summarized what we believe are the top 5 changes to the new alimony law here.  The law applies to cases filed on or after January 1, 2019, but parties to a case filed before that may agree to adopt provisions of the law.  Cases filed between now and January 1, 2019 are controlled by the old law unless the court finds that adopting any of the new provisions would be both equitable and consistent with the law currently in effect.

#1: Two types of alimony

Under the new law, there are two types of alimony- term and reimbursement.  Term alimony is based on need and ability to pay, whereas reimbursement alimony is meant to compensate the payee (the party receiving alimony) for his or her economic or non-economic contribution to the financial resources of the payor (the party paying alimony).

#2: Formula and duration limitations for term alimony

The law states that the amount of term alimony shall be the lesser of the payee’s reasonable need or a formula based on 30 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes at the time the order is created.  The court can vary the formula when there has been an adjustment to the child support guidelines due to an equal or approximately equal parenting schedule.  The law also establishes that the maximum duration of term alimony shall be 50 percent of the length of the marriage.  The court can adjust the formula amounts and/or duration limitations if the parties agree or if justice requires.

#3: Term alimony ends upon retirement of payor

Term alimony ends upon the payor reaching full retirement age or actual retirement by the payor, whichever is later, unless the parties agree otherwise or the court finds that justice requires a different termination date based on special circumstances.  Special circumstances could include health, financial dependency, present and future employability, and voluntary unemployment or underemployment.  The payor must provide reasonable notice of retirement, which the statute presumes to be 60 days.

#4: Cohabitation can be a reason for modification or termination of term alimony

A finding by the Court of cohabitation can be a reason for modification or termination of term alimony.  Such a finding is based on a relationship between the payee and another unrelated adult resembling a marriage, with circumstances that would make alimony payments unjust.  The statute lists factors for the court to consider including living together on a continual basis in a primary residence and sharing expenses.  The Court could reinstate the original award upon finding that the payee’s cohabitation has ceased or the marriage has ended in divorce, as long as the request is made within 5 years of the effective date of the termination order.  In this situation, reinstatement cannot extend beyond a termination date but if there are a specified number of payments, reinstatement may be for up to the number of payments remaining in the order.

#5: Requirements for orders

The law enumerates requirements for any order granting, denying, renewing, modifying, or refusing to renew or modify term or reimbursement alimony.  If alimony is awarded, the court must state: the type(s) of alimony, the duration or number of payments, method of payments, any limitations; whether retirement will impact payments; whether security is required; and whether the order is based on an agreement of the parties.  If the proceeding was contested, then the order must include findings that support the decision and any circumstances justifying an adjustment to the formula or duration limitations.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions about the new alimony law and how it may affect you, call Morneau Law to set up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.  We are located in downtown Nashua, NH with plenty of free parking.  Call 943-5647 or click here to fill out our online form.