When you are facing a divorce, one of the aspects that sparks fear is how it will affect your finances long-term. Given the splitting of assets and finances that typically occurs during the difficult process, financial loss is to be expected.
The thought of financial challenges can get worse when aspects like alimony, and child support are factored into the equation. With the amount that you are forced to work after a divorce just to support yourself, it can be unpleasant to imagine taking a percentage from that sum and giving it to someone who you were once married to.
In many areas of the United States, like Alabama, alimony reform has prevented the primary earner in a previous marriage from having to pay alimony for the rest of their life and the life of their ex-spouse. Other states, such as Vermont and South Carolina, have had discussions regarding alimony reform and its potential benefits. The state of New Hampshire also is headed to reform its alimony policies.
The bill, SB 71, has been considered previously in 2017, when it was drafted by area attorneys and sponsored by state Senator Sharon Carson, chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
This bill coincided with another bill, SB 521, that was being worked on by state Representative Debra DeSimone and an area attorney. SB 521 died in January 2018 on the House floor.
As far as SB 71 is concerned, it passed the Senate in March 2017 and the House in January 2018. According to the Union Leader, a compromise was reached in a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate, with the finalized bill passing both chambers on May 23, 2018.
SB 71 has been met with both praise and criticism, due to some of the details featured in the bill. The bill states that the maximum duration of alimony shall be 50 percent of the length of the marriage, unless both parties agree otherwise or the court finds that an adjustment is needed after specifically outline circumstances are proven.
Critics of the bill
The critics have circled around a clause regarding the court’s ability to change the length of the marriage. However, supporters of the bill state that it is included, in order to account for same-sex couples whose marriages have only recently been recognized by the state.
Critics maintain that this clause is moot, given how premarital cohabitation factors into the division of assets and that this may be unconstitutional, as it pertains to the marital certificates of other states.
Supporters of the bill
Supporters of the bill have praised it for its recognition of the financial troubles that it can sometimes cause. In SB 71, the bill outlines the requirements for alimony. It states that the amount of alimony needs to be based on 30 percent of the difference between the two divorcing parties’ gross incomes at the time the order is created, unless the court finds that adjustment needs to occur.
It also clearly outlines how voluntary unemployment affects the case for alimony modification, as well as the status of social security, as it pertains to income. It states that in any case of the modification of an existing alimony order, the earned or unearned income and social security payments of a spouse or payor shall not be considered a source of income, unless the payor resigns from or refuses employment or is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
In those cases, the income of a subsequent spouse can be imputed to the payor only to the extent that such payor could have earned income in his or her usual employment. This clause also enables the courts to consider veteran’s disability benefits of a spouse of a payor.
Purpose and consequences
For those relying on alimony, legislation regarding its impermanence is a detrimental step for their financial stability. However, if you are the one paying the alimony payments, you would hope that eventually you would be able to experience relief and have these payments end.
Legislation, like the bill being explored in New Hampshire, is not about the destabilization of the payee. It is about providing financial relief to you, the payor, giving you an opportunity to fully move on from a marriage that did not work and has been costing you ever since.
Signing into law
According to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, Governor Chris Sununu signed the bill into law June 25. It will become effective as of January 1, 2019.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.