What are the residency requirements for divorce in New Hampshire?
The judge can grant you a divorce in New Hampshire if:
- both you and your spouse live in New Hampshire when you start the divorce case;
- you live in New Hampshire and your spouse is personally served with the divorce paperwork while in the state; or
- you have lived in New Hampshire for one year before filing for divorce.1
The judge can also grant you a divorce based on irreconcilable differences that have cause the permanent (“irremediable”) breakdown of the marriage.2
1 NH ST § 458:5
2 NH ST § 458:7-a
What are the grounds for divorce in New Hampshire?
Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce. A judge can grant you a divorce if your spouse:
- is impotent;
- cheats on you (adultery);
- treats you with extreme cruelty;
- is convicted of a crime punishable with imprisonment for more than one year and actually serves part of that imprisonment;
- causes serious injury to your health or endangers you;
- is absent for at least two years and has not been heard from;
- is habitually drunk for at least two years;1
- joins a religious sect that bans marriage, and s/he refuses to cohabitate with you for at least six months; or2
- leaves you without your consent and refuses to cohabitate with you for at least two years.1
1 NH ST § 458:7
2Dyer v. Dyer, 5 N.H. 271(1830)
Can I get alimony? What types of alimony are there?
Alimony (also called maintenance or spousal support) is financial support paid by or to your spouse and can be awarded as part of a divorce. The judge can award you reimbursement alimony or term alimony.
The purpose of term alimony is to allow both parties to maintain a reasonable standard of living. If the issue of term alimony is contested (if the parties don’t agree), the judge can order term alimony only if s/he finds that:
- you lack sufficient income, property, or both to take care of your needs, considering your lifestyle during the marriage and the fact that each spouse will have to adjust their standards of living based maintaining separate households;
- you cannot support yourself in an appropriate job or you care for a child whose circumstances limits the hours you can work or makes you unable to work outside of the home; and
- your spouse (the person paying alimony) can meet his/her reasonable needs while also meeting your needs, considering your standard of living during the marriage and the fact that each spouse will have to adjust their standards of living based maintaining separate households.1
he purpose of reimbursement alimony is to compensate you for your economic or non-economic contributions to the financial resources of your spouse, such as supporting his/her education or job training, or making an investment of time or money. However, generally reimbursement alimony is only ordered if you were not adequately compensated through the division of of marital property (which includes retirement benefits, savings accounts, etc.).2
1 NH ST § 458:19-a(I)
2 NH ST § 458:19-a(V); 458:16-a(I)
At what point during the divorce process do I need to request alimony?
You can make a motion for term alimony either:
- before the final divorce order is signed; or
- within five years after the divorce decree is entered.1
With reimbursement alimony, however, the request must be made before the final divorce decree is effective.2
1 NH ST § 458:19-a(I)
2 NH ST § 458:19-a(V)
How will a judge decide the amount of alimony that I will get?
To decide the amount of term alimony, the judge will generally take the following steps:
- The judge will use a mathematical formula, which is based on 30 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes at the time the order is created, to come up with an amount.
- The judge will look at the “reasonable need” of the person receiving alimony and come up with an amount.
- The judge will order the lesser of the two amounts.1
However, if you can prove to the judge that you should get more alimony than what the mathematical formula comes up with, and the judge believes that such an adjustment must be made to achieve justice, the judge can:
- adjust the formula amounts to increase the amount of alimony; and/or
- lengthen the period of time that alimony is paid so that is lasts for longer than half the length of the marriage.2
Special circumstances that can justify an adjustment include, but are not limited to, the following:
- health, including disability, chronic or severe mental or physical illness, or other unusual health circumstances of either party;
- the amount of any financial dependency of one party on the other and the length of time of this dependency;
- vocational skills, occupation, benefits available from employment, and the present and future employability of both parties;
- voluntary unemployment or underemployment of either party;
- any special needs of a minor or adult child of the parties;
- property awarded as part of the divorce;
- the behavior of either party during the marriage, including:
- differences in the parties’ benefits under the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Social Security program;
- lessening of significant assets by a party, coupled with a lack of sufficient assets from which property can be equitably divided or recouped;
- any other reason the court deems material and relevant.2
1 NH ST § 458:19-a(II)
2 NH ST § 458:19-a(III), (IV)
If I get alimony, how long will it last?
The maximum amount of time for which you can get term alimony is 50 percent of the length of the marriage. So, for example, if you are married for 20 years, you can expect to get alimony for 10 years. However, this can change if:
- you and your spouse agree to a shorter or longer period of time; or
- the judge believes that fairness (justice) requires an adjustment to the length of time.1 To understand what factors a judge will consider when deciding whether the length of time should be adjusted, go to How will a judge decide alimony?
Term alimony will end before the time described above, however, if you (the person getting alimony) remarry before the alimony payments are set to end.1
The maximum amount of time for which you can get reimbursement alimony is five years from the date that the final divorce decree becomes effective, unless the parties agree otherwise. This time period cannot be changed (modified) unless both parties agree.2
1 NH ST § 458:19-a(III)
2 NH ST § 458:19-a(V)
Additional information and links
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire Legal Aid has various self-help guides called “Filing for Divorce in New Hampshire,” “Basics of NH Divorce Law,” and “Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in a Divorce.”
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.
Where can I find additional information about divorce on WomensLaw.org?
You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.