Under New Hampshire law, property owned by each spouse at the time of divorce is to be included in the marital estate, regardless of whether title to the property is held in the name of both parties or only one party, and regardless of whether of the property was acquired before the marriage or during the marriage. While the court starts with the presumption that the property shall be divided equally, the court may and often does treat short-term marriages differently. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has found that a short-term marriage may be considered differently than a long-term marriage. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has explained that in a short-term marriage, it is easier to give back property brought into the marriage and still leave the parties in a no worse position than they were prior to it. Consistent with this ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld a trial court awarding one spouse the entire real estate because she put down most of the down payment on the purchase of the house with inherited funds.
While the trial court does have the authority in short-term marriages to refuse to divide the assets 50/50, the trial court has discretion to divide the marital estate 50/50, even in marriages of short duration. Accordingly, in assisting the court in making a decision on the division of assets in a short-term marriage, it is critical that sufficient facts and evidence are presented to enable a court to reach the appropriate decision. Failure to provide sufficient evidence on these factors may leave the court with insufficient evidence to make the correct result.
If you have any questions regarding division of assets upon divorce, please contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan.
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.