On May 30, 2014, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an opinion which clarified the standards by which alimony awards could be renewed or extended. In the case of Lyon and Lyon, the parties were divorced in 2007. Pursuant to the Divorce Decree, the husband was to pay alimony from January 1, 2007 until June 30, 2012. On May 31, 2012, the wife filed a petition to extend the alimony award for another three years. The husband objected and argued that the wife had failed to show there was an unanticipated or unforeseen change of circumstances which warranted the extension of the existing alimony order. The trial court agreed and dismissed the petition.
On appeal the New Hampshire Supreme Court differentiated between post-divorce requests to renew or extend alimony awards that had been previously awarded in the final decree with new petitions for alimony in cases where alimony had not been awarded in the final decree. Where, as here, the wife had been previously awarded alimony and was asking the Court to renew and extend the alimony order, she needed to show that justice requires a renewal and extension and, if so, what justice requires as to the amount in light of all the circumstances then existing.
The effect of this opinion is to clarify the standard for petitions to renew/extend alimony awards. Petitions to modify an existing alimony award, or to award alimony when the final decree did not previously make such an award, would still be governed by the substantial change in circumstances test. Petitions to renew or extend an existing alimony award are governed by what justice requires in light of all the circumstances test.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].