Understanding Child Support
Child support is money paid for the support, maintenance and education of a child or children. It is paid on a regular basis, usually weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, by one parent to the other. Gifts, purchases of clothes, transportation, vacation expenses and payment of rent may not considered support, even though they benefit the child. The Court does not require the parent who receives support to account for the support, that is, to prove that each and every support dollar received is spent on the child/children.
Published statutory guidelines provide an estimate of the monthly support the Court will grant under normal circumstances. The support obligation is based on the number and ages of the children and the net income of the parties. Net income is determined by subtracting the Federal and State withholding taxes, Social Security withholding and cost of dependent health insurance from the gross monthly income. The Court does, however, have the power to award more or less than the statutory guideline amount upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.
Support orders issued by the Court are statutorily required to provide for the assignment of wages. This means that, unless there is some exception that is applicable, the court will issue automatically an order to the paying spouse’s employer directing that the support amount be deducted from the employee’s paycheck and sent directly to the state agency in charge of enforcement or to the person to receive the support. The exceptions to this rule are: (1) where there is an agreement between the parties which has been approved by the court; and (2) where the court issues a written order that there is good cause not to require immediate assignment.
The first months of separation are very important in establishing patterns of support payments. The parent receiving support should expect support to be paid in full and on time. The parent paying child support should always pay by check or money order and indicate the payment for “Child Support for (month) , (year) .” For example, “Child Support November 2014.”
Support will cease when the child reaches age eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever is later. The parties may, by agreement, make provisions for the child’s education beyond age eighteen, until the child completes a college education or reaches age twenty-one. However, the Court will not impose such a requirement in the absence on an agreement between the parties.
Modification of Child Support
The support obligation may be modified subsequent to the initial order. However, a request for modification will only be heard by the Court if at least one of two factors is present: (a) there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” which makes the current child support award unfair; or (b) three years have passed since the child support award was entered. Remarriage of either parent does not automatically change the support obligation.
Enforcing a New Hampshire Child Support Award in Another State
A New Hampshire Decree granting support is enforceable in other states based on the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. If the parent paying child support leaves New Hampshire and fails to comply with the support Order, the non-payment of support may be referred to an attorney for enforcement, or referred to the appropriate state agency for enforcement under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act.
Alimony is often referred to as spousal support and spousal maintenance. It can be awarded to either spouse. Permanent alimony is generally reserved for cases of lengthy marriages, illness of one party or other unusual circumstances. Alimony generally ceases when the recipient remarries. It does not cease when the payor remarries. Alimony may be awarded for a limited period, often six to twenty-four months, to allow one party to finish an education or adjust to single life.
Unlike child support, the amount of an alimony award is reserved to the Court’s discretion. There are no statutory guidelines for determining alimony, and alimony will not be awarded in all cases. Some factors to be considered is determining the amount of alimony are: (a) each spouse’s needs and ability to pay; (b) each spouse’s age and health; (c) employability; (d) social or economic status; (e) liabilities of each spouse; (f) the duration of the marriage; and (g) the amount of property owned by each spouse.
There is no fixed rule by which the amount of alimony can be determined. Each case must be decided upon its own relevant facts in the light of what is fair and reasonable.
If you have any questions regarding child support and/or alimony, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss. The attorneys at Hamblett & Kerrigan have experience in handling such situations. Let Hamblett & Kerrigan use their experience to your advantage.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.