Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law
At SekellaLaw, PLLC, we believe that our clients deserve the utmost in service and support. Part of building a successful case involves client education, and that is why we have included answers to some frequently asked questions on our website.
View the information below, or feel free to ask our team of Manchester family law attorneys any additional questions by contacting us at any time.
How Does The New Tax Law Affect Alimony?
Currently, alimony payments are tax deductible for paying spouses and are taxable as income for receiving spouses. However, this will be altered with the new tax law. Once the law goes into effect in January 2019, alimony payments will be treated differently.
This means, if you get divorced on or after January 1, 2019, alimony payments made by the payor could be less appealing in an overall property settlement from a tax standpoint. Our Manchester divorce lawyers can discuss your financial situation and help you seek a reasonable outcome based on this new information.
Can I Use Mediation If My Spouse And I Are Fighting?
Mediation is a helpful tool for couples seeking divorce. It allows you to avoid the expensive, time-consuming and emotional court process. It provides you with an opportunity to sit down with a neutral party and your spouse, ideally with the assistance of a lawyer, to discuss and reach a creative solution regarding the division of assets and property, spousal support and other issues.
While the concept of mediation is commonly used in collaborative divorce, it is also available to parties who are already involved in the court process and litigation has begun. An impartial mediator can even place you in separate rooms and conduct "shuttle" mediation by acting as a "go-between." Mediators are not permitted to provide legal advice or give you direction regarding settlement, which is why having an experienced family law attorney with you is a viable option to consider. The mediation process can help you reach an agreement on important issues without having to endure the stress of a face-to-face interaction with your spouse.
If you and your spouse are divorcing, and you want to try mediation, our attorneys can represent you during the mediation process to look out for you and advise you on which outcome would be in your best interest.
How Do Courts Make Decisions Regarding Child Custody?
Parenting rights and responsibilities (formerly known as physical custody and legal custody) take two different forms. Physical custody is now the actual schedule designated to a parent and child, known as the "routine schedule." Legal custody is now decision-making authority, either joint or sole.
Be aware that joint decision-making authority is presumed to be in the best interest of the child and sole is awarded in rare instances, typically with history of proven abuse and/or neglect. In New Hampshire, the courts will make decisions regarding parenting rights and responsibilities (formerly child custody) based on the child's best interests. This involves a variety of factors, and the child may also be allowed to provide input on a parenting arrangement, if evidence shows that the child is sufficiently mature.
The court will consider:
- The age, physical and mental health of the child
- The relationship of the child with both parents
- The ability of both parents to support the relationship between the child and other parent
- The ability of each parent to care for the child
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
The court will also consider other factors specific to each case, like other siblings, proximity of both parties to each residence and the child's school, and any special needs of the child. These considerations are in place to ensure the child's physical, mental, social and emotional needs are protected throughout the process and beyond. There is a misconception that once a child attains a certain age (like 12) that he or she can now "decide" with whom he or she wants to live. There is no set age as the assessment is the child's maturity and there is no legal right "to decide." To understand better how the courts make parenting decisions, speak with one of our attorneys at SekellaLaw, PLLC.
If I Leave The House Can My Spouse Claim Abandonment?
If you have decided to leave the home because of volatility or tension, or some other reason that negatively affects how you and your spouse co-parent, co-exist and/or communicate, abandonment is an unlikely finding under RSA 458:7. To prove any fault ground, one must prove that the fault ground occurred during the marriage and that it caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
For a spouse to be successful on a claim of abandonment, he or she must prove the other party has been absent for two years and has not been heard from, or he or she must prove that without sufficient cause, the other spouse without the consent of the other, has refused to cohabit together for two years.
Who Pays Child Support If I Share Custody Of My Children?
To be clear, an equal or approximately equal parenting schedule does not necessarily eliminate an award of child support, according to New Hampshire law. In a shared parenting schedule, the courts analyze various factors when considering a request for an adjustment to the application of guideline child support.
Factors that they may take into account when calculating child support include:
- How many expenses you have agreed to share in regard to the child's life, including costs related to education, health care, clothing, day care and more
- If the child's living situation will significantly reduce costs for the other parent
- The income levels of both parents and how they compare to the costs of raising the child
Who Gets To Stay In The House And Who Has To Pay For It?
Customarily, if one parent has already vacated the marital home, the party remaining would most likely be awarded temporary exclusive use and possession of the home, especially if there are children in the home. Only in rare circumstances will this not be the case. The courts do not like to make such decisions any more than separating parties do.
In the event the parties have already begun to take steps to separate, such decisions may be officially implemented by the court on a temporary basis. Payment for the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs on the home will be assessed by the court on a case-by-case basis. The court will consider any child support and/or alimony awards, as well as which party has the benefit of staying in the home, when determining who will pay the housing costs.
Will I Be Held Responsible For My Spouse's Debts?
Since it is difficult for the court to determine on a temporary basis which party shall be responsible for which credit cards, loans, lines of credit, etc., the court may establish a temporary order. The order may require both parties to contribute to the "household" debts, unless such an order is deemed unreasonable or unjust.
Each party's respective income and expenses also play a part in how the court will assess a fair allocation of payment of debts/expenses while the case is pending. How a case deals with payment of expenses and debts on a temporary basis is not to be viewed as how the court will deal with such payments under a final decree. As always, you can discuss the matter further with our Manchester divorce lawyers about how your spouse's assets may be divided.
Does New Hampshire Have Alimony, And How Does It Work?
Alimony or spousal support is available in New Hampshire under RSA 458:19. Effective June 25, 2018 the law has changed regarding how the Courts will consider an alimony award from one spouse to the other. Similar to other states, New Hampshire has implemented a formula which takes into consideration each party's gross income, payment/receipt of child support and payment/receipt of other paid expenses. The calculation is a result of 30% the difference between the parties' adjusted gross incomes at a maximum and the duration for half the length of the marriage at a maximum. Once the calculation has been done, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney to make legal arguments relating to the recipient's need and the payor's ability to pay to arrive at an agreed upon figure or proposed figure for the Court to consider. There are other factors to consider like the standard of living during the marriage. The tax consequences on the federal level relating to the receipt and payment of alimony change effective January 1, 2019. To be sure you understand your rights regarding alimony, speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys.
Do You Offer Preliminary Case Reviews?
Yes! If you would like to request a case review, please reach out to SekellaLaw, PLLC, and share the details of what you are going through with our Manchester family law attorneys. We can offer you informative advice on how to proceed in a way that sets you up for success. You don't have to have an open "case" in court to come in for a complimentary case review or initial consultation.
Call 603-623-1003 now to speak to a member of our firm or feel free to contact us online to schedule a consultation.