Submitted: March 8, 2018
Circuit Court-Conway Family Division
Hoyt, self-represented party, by brief.
Hoyt, self-represented party, by brief.
petitioner, Steven Hoyt, appeals an order of the Circuit
Court (Pendleton, J.) reinstating his alimony
obligation to the respondent, Lesley Hoyt, and granting an
upward adjustment to his child support payments. We affirm.
following facts are found in the record. The respondent and
the petitioner divorced in 2010 after an 18-year marriage. In
2013, the respondent filed a post-divorce petition seeking,
among other things, an award of alimony. By order dated
October 1, 2014, the Circuit Court (Albee, J.)
awarded the respondent "temporary alimony for a period
not to exceed 18 months . . . in the amount of $150
monthly." According to the trial court, the award was
necessary to provide the respondent, who was suffering from
tendonitis at the time, with "some temporary
assistance" until she was able to restore her health and
work a greater number of hours.
parties have three children. The oldest two are currently
over the age of 18. The oldest child recently withdrew from
college and moved back in with the respondent due to a
medical condition. The middle child attends college but lives
with the respondent while school is not in session. The
parties' youngest child is in high school, and primarily
resides with the respondent.
12, 2016, the petitioner filed a request in the trial court
seeking a reduction to his child support obligation because
the middle child had recently turned 18. However, in June
2016, prior to receiving approval from the trial court, the
petitioner reduced the amount of his monthly child support
payment. Thereafter, the respondent requested alimony. Prior
to the final hearing, the respondent filed a one-page
proposed order seeking to increase child support for the
youngest child to $1, 100 per month and requesting alimony in
the amount of $600 per month. The petitioner requested that
the current child support payment be reduced to $982 per
month. Accompanying the petitioner's proposed order was a
detailed request for factual findings along with legal
citation in support of his position.
January 25, 2017, the court held a final hearing to resolve
these issues. The respondent testified at that hearing that
the parties' oldest child had to drop out of school due
to a medical condition that caused her joints to become
easily dislocated and made it difficult for her to get out of
bed without assistance. The oldest child also suffered from a
neuropathy that caused severe pain and joint stiffness. The
respondent explained that she regularly drives her to
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital for treatment. The respondent
also explained that she is paying for the parties' middle
child to go to college and otherwise provides him with
financial support. As for the parties' youngest child,
the respondent testified that increased costs of
extracurricular activities justify an upward deviation in
child support. Specifically, the youngest child had recently
been invited to go to Disney World with her dance team.
According to the respondent, "the cost of the trip alone
is $1600," and the additional cost of costumes and other
provisions will increase the total bill to $3, 000. The
respondent stated that the petitioner refused to contribute
any money toward the cost of the trip. The youngest child is
also in the school band, and the respondent testified that
she is responsible for purchasing instruments and uniforms.
As a final point, the respondent explained that she had
become delinquent with "all" of her credit cards
after the petitioner reduced his child support payment, and
these bills are "now in collections."
petitioner argued that the respondent's request for
alimony was untimely under New Hampshire law. Specifically,
the petitioner took the position that the original alimony
award was only "temporary," and thus could not be
reinstated because the current request was made more than
five years from the original divorce decree. The petitioner
also argued that his child support obligation should not be
increased to fund the youngest child's extracurricular
activities because his "support pays for that
already" and "$3, 000 is a lot of money" for a
trip that was merely "optional."
March 13, 2017, the trial court issued an order renewing
alimony and granting an upward adjustment to the
petitioner's child support obligation. The trial court
rejected the petitioner's argument that the original
alimony award was "temporary," concluding that it
was a "permanent award for a set period of time."
Moreover, the trial court reasoned that the respondent's
current living situation - taking care of three children, one
of whom was suffering from "debilitating medical
issues" - coupled with her lack of sufficient income,
warranted an alimony award of $200 per month for 12 months.
As for child support, the trial court found that the
respondent's financial difficulties, coupled with the
"extraordinary costs related to [the youngest
child's] after school activities," warranted a minor
upward adjustment to $1053 per month in order to meet the
youngest child's needs. The petitioner's motion to
reconsider was denied, and this appeal followed.
appeal, we will affirm the findings and rulings of the trial
court unless they are unsupported by the evidence or legally
erroneous." In the Matter of Nyhan and Nyhan,
147 N.H. 768, 770 (2002); In the Matter of Plaisted &
Plaisted, 149 N.H. 522, 523 (2003). We afford broad
discretion to the trial court in determining and ordering
child support and alimony. See In the Matter of Johnson
& Johnson, 158 N.H. 555, 558 (2009); In the
Matter of Nassar & Nassar, 156 N.H. 769, 772 (2008).
"Accordingly, absent an unsustainable exercise of
discretion, we will not overturn its factual findings."
Nassar, 156 N.H. at 772. "However, we review
its interpretation of the law de novo."
petitioner argues that the trial court exceeded its statutory
authority to award additional alimony. Specifically, he
argues that the original award was "temporary" and
therefore, under RSA 458:19, could only be adjusted within
five years of the original divorce decree. Relying on Judge
Albee's use of the phrase "temporary alimony"
in the 2014 order, the petitioner argues that Judge Albee