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