In the Matter of Mitchell Cohen & Marian RichardsAnnotate this Case
Respondent Marian Richards appealed a circuit court order approving the divorce decree recommended by the Judicial Referee. On appeal, respondent argued the circuit court erred by: (1) improperly excluding certain estimated expenses claimed by the respondent in determining the alimony award; (2) classifying as income, rather than marital property, payments petitioner Mitchell Cohen might receive pursuant to deferred compensation and severance agreements; and (3) improperly calculating the respondent’s share of those payments, if the court properly classified them as income. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the benefit provided by petitioner’s deferred compensation plan was similar in nature to a non-vested pension benefit and therefore constituted intangible marital property subject to equitable distribution. Because petitioner had an interest in receiving the retirement benefit upon his retirement under the deferred compensation agreement, the Court concluded any future payments he might receive that were attributable to his employment during the parties’ marriage constituted marital property subject to equitable division. Furthermore, petitioner's conditional right to receive severance pay pursuant to an employment agreement acquired during the marriage constituted an employment benefit under the applicable statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it classified payments under the deferred compensation and severance agreements as income for the purpose of determining alimony. The Court also vacated and remanded the trial court's base alimony award that was based in part, upon the court's consideration of the award of marital property. On remand, the trial court had to: (1) equitably divide the retirement benefit under the deferred compensation agreement and the payment under the severance agreement pursuant to the factors in RSA 458:16-a, II, and the requirements set forth in RSA 458:16-a, IV; and (2) recalculate the respondent’s alimony award in accordance with this opinion and RSA 458:19, VI (2018) (amended 2018).