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The relevance of divorce after 10 years of marriage

As one of Hollywood's favorite couples announced the end of their marriage last month, many people expressed sadness at the fact that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck made the announcement a day after their tenth anniversary. Texas residents may be surprised to know that 10 years is an important milestone in a marriage, not just for emotional reasons but also for legal reasons.

In many states, including Texas, if the marriage has lasted longer than 10 years, it is termed a long-term marriage. This designation has implications on both the amount and the duration of spousal support -- called maintenance in Texas -- the court can award. The court has jurisdiction over these matters in a long-term marriage, and can award the lesser-earning spouse a greater amount of maintenance than if the marriage had ended sooner. This may be an especially important factor for couples to consider if they foresee a high asset divorce.

In addition to this, military benefits and Social Security benefits also kick in after the ten-year mark. The lesser-earning spouse becomes entitled to receive their former spouse's Social Security benefits when they reach the eligible age.

For the purpose of asset division in a divorce, it is important to establish a formal date of separation. The court uses this date to determine business interests and evaluate properties, and having a set date certainly streamlines the process and lessens the uncertainty.

Ending a marriage is not always easy, whether the couple is famous or not. But where both spouses have dedicated a number of years of their lives to one another, the lesser-earning spouse may need certain benefits. An experienced attorney may be able to help Texas residents understand what types of benefits they may be eligible to seek.

Source: Forbes, "Why did Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner wait to split until after their tenth anniversary," Jeff Landers, July 15, 2015

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