The Divorce Law on Inherited Property RSA in New Hampshire
By Heather Frances J.D.
When you divorce in New Hampshire, the state court must decide how to divide property between you and your spouse. If you and your spouse can agree on property division, the court may accept your agreement; if you cannot agree, New Hampshire courts use the guidelines set forth in New Hampshire’s Revised Statutes Annotated, RSA, to decide these issues for you. Since New Hampshire is an “all property” state, courts can divide your inherited property in the divorce.
Generally, New Hampshire courts consider all property you or your spouse own to be marital property, regardless of when or how you acquired it. In New Hampshire, marital property includes all tangible and intangible assets, including real estate and personal property. Even if property is listed only in your name or only in your spouse’s name, the court considers it marital property subject to division in the divorce. Under New Hampshire law, divisible property includes employment benefits, pensions, retirement plans, military retirement and veterans’ disability benefits. Even if you acquired the property by inheritance, it is eligible to be divided by the court in your divorce.
The divorce court must divide property equitably, or fairly, between you and your spouse. Equitable division does not necessarily mean your property will be split equally. Instead, New Hampshire law requires the court to presume that an equal division is equitable unless the court decides otherwise after considering factors listed in New Hampshire's RSA. This means the court starts with the idea that splitting your property exactly equal is fair, but state law gives the court discretion to make an unequal split when appropriate.
New Hampshire law lists 15 factors courts are to consider before making an equitable division. These factors include the duration of the marriage; age and health of each spouse; needs and liabilities of each spouse; opportunity for each spouse to earn money or acquire assets in the future; each spouse’s expected pension or retirement rights; tax consequences of division; and the value of property divided by prenuptial agreements. Though the statute lists 14 specific factors, it also includes a catch-all category allowing the court to consider any other factor it deems relevant to your case.
The factors considered by the court allow it to split your property in an unequal manner if it decides an equal split is not equitable, and New Hampshire courts have split property unequally in the past. In the case Grandmaison v. Grandmaison, a New Hampshire court awarded the husband approximately 75 percent of the couple’s property, including his share of a hotel business he acquired before the marriage. Similarly, in McAlpin v. McAlpin, the court gave the wife all proceeds from the sale of a summer camp the couple owned because the wife had paid the majority of the purchase price from money she received as a family inheritance. Cases like these support a New Hampshire court’s ability to split property in the manner most appropriate for your situation.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.