They still have separate property and debts such as checking accounts, credit cards, cars. And statements from their pension or 401(k) from before they got married.
The trust may not be quite there yet to take such a bold step and co-mingle finances. Which makes figuring out who gets what less complicated when they divorce.
But after being married 10 years, divorce is more difficult because you've already co-mingled many or all of your assets and liabilities.
At the 10-year mark, you most likely have joint marital property:
Joint checking accounts;
Joint credit cards which contain marital debts and purchases from your 10 years of living together;
Purchased a house and used funds from your separate accounts to make this joint purchase;
And you're well on your way towards accumulating enough money in your retirement accounts for your golden years.
You've joined your lives together financially.
Which will make separating your assets and liabilities all the more complex.
2. In a Divorce After 10 Years, One of You May Work Inside the Home While One of You Works Outside of It
If you're like many couples, you were married a few years before you decided to have children and expand your family.
And you may have made the decision for one of you to stay at home with the kids.
So when seeking a divorce after 10 years, if that's the case and one of you is home with the kids, you've probably been out of the workforce just long enough that jumping right back in and earning what you used to earn may be difficult if not impossible.
Even if you and your spouse are both working outside the home, you probably rely on each other quite a bit for your daily routine.
Because your kids are in the phase where school, homework, after-school activities, sports, religious education and being invited to friends' birthday parties are in full swing.
So you and your spouse are a taxi service, constantly having to shuttle them from place-to-place.
For couples married 10 years, divorce is disruptive to your "normal" routine. And messing with that now, especially while your kids are young, can be quite a challenge.
3. How Alimony is Determined Can Change at The 10 Year Mark
The duration of your marriage will also often determine the length of alimony (spousal support / maintenance / spousal maintenance).
And in some states, divorce after 10 years represents an important milestone when it comes to alimony.
Some states consider a divorce before 10 years of marriage "shorter term." So the duration of spousal support isn't as long as it would be for a couple in married 10 years or more.
To be clear:
I'm not suggesting you should stay stuck in an unhappy marriage just so you can get to 10 years on the chance it will increase the duration of your spousal support.
I am simply stating that how alimony is determined can change at the 10 year mark. And because there are few formulas and little guidance on how to determine alimony, things can get quite complicated and contentious if you're not careful.
A Word About Divorce After 10 Years in California
There's a common misconception that if a California couple gets divorced after 10 years, the marriage is considered to be long-term, and that alimony will last forever.
This is not necessarily the case.
While the above statement is partially correct as some states consider a marriage of 10 years or more a long-term marriage, divorce after 10 years in California does not mean an ex-spouse will automatically receive permanent spousal support.
Duration is something that is negotiated in a California divorce case. And can vary greatly, depending on your unique situation.
4. Your Social Security Benefits May be Impacted When Divorcing After 10 Years
Rarely does getting a divorce involve good news. But when it comes to Social Security, divorce after 10 years is an exception.
You see, if you and you spouse were married for 10 years or more, you may eligible to receive Social Security based on your ex-spouse's earnings. And receive greater benefits than if you were to collect on your own.
In order to eligible for this increased benefit, you need to meet the following criteria:
You are unmarried at the time you go to collect
You are of eligible age (i.e. age 62 or older)
Your ex-spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits; and
The benefit you would receive, based on your own earnings history, would be less than the benefit you would receive, if it were based on your ex-spouse's earnings.
So what happens if you're the "ex-spouse" in this example?
Does your benefit go down if your former spouse starts collecting Social Security based on your earnings history?
There is no impact whatsoever to the amount you, as the higher earning ex-spouse, would collect from the Social Security Administration.
And your marital status doesn't matter, either. You can be re-married, divorced, or widowed, and your ex-spouse can still collect off of your earnings, with no impact to you (or your current spouse).
Caution: Using Lawyers When Divorcing After 10 Years Can Be a Recipe for Disaster for a Couple
So far you've learned 4 issues that can complicate things when divorcing after 10 years of marriage.
And since these are complex topics, your first inclination may be to hire a divorce attorney.
Which is not a good idea.
When Dividing Your Assets and Liabilities:
Now that you're facing divorce, you'll have to figure out "who gets what." And how that all happens depends on where you live.
For example, some states use the principles of equitable distribution, while others use the principles of community property instead.
But here's the thing...
Whether you live in an equitable distribution state or a community property state, you and your divorcing spouse still have quite a bit of freedom to determine how you split your marital assets and debts.
There aren't really any formulas or guidelines on how things should be divided between a couple. It just needs to be fair.
But when it comes to divorce, what does fair even mean?
Unfortunately, no one is exactly clear on that important detail.
So basically, you've got no formulas on how to divide your assets and liabilities, and no clear definition of fair.
Now throw family law attorneys into the mix and you've got a real recipe for disaster on your hands.
They're going to need to justify their exorbitant fees. And what better way to do that than by:
And showing you how much more they got you?
But what some people don't realize until it's too late, is that the extra $5,000 in retirement funds their lawyer spent 6 months getting them, wound up costing $10,000 in attorney fees.
Not such a good deal anymore, is it?
When Determining Your Roles as Co-Parents:
Again, a divorce lawyer's job is to advocate or fight for their one client.
Which might be all well and good if a box falls on your head at a major home-improvement chain and you need your medical bills paid for.
But not good when it comes to determining the role each of you will play in your children's future.
Do you want your attorney fighting for you to get a majority of the parenting time? While your spouse is left to maybe one night during the week and every other weekend?
Is that truly what's best for your kids? To only see their mom or dad 14% to 28% of the time?
Of course not!
It's in their best interests to see both of their parents as much as possible. And you know it!
You don't need two lawyers fighting it out in divorce court to create your parenting plan or time sharing arrangement. It will only destroy your children.
When Determining Alimony:
As previously mentioned, there are very few states in the US that have an alimony guideline. Making alimony difficult to determine even under the best of conditions.
Now take this highly charged topic, throw a few bulldogs into the ring along with a complete lack of guidance and you've got a never-ending family court battle over alimony that will last years.
And wind up costing you more in legal bills than you would ever have paid or received in alimony.
This is not something you or your spouse ever want to consider. No matter how upset you may be with each other.
Married 10 Years? Divorce Mediation is Your Best Solution.
If you've made the decision to divorce after 10 years of marriage, you'll get the best outcome when you mediate your no-fault divorce with the help of the expert mediation team at Equitable Mediation.
Divorce after 10 years of marriage is unique as the 10-year mark is an important milestone when it comes to a marriage;
There is very little guidance on how things should be divided and decided;
Involving lawyers will only make things worse and cost you more time and money.
Divorce mediation enables you to control the terms of your agreement, put the needs of your children first, and peacefully and fairly divorce without lawyers.
Now you know exactly why mediation is your best bet for divorce after being married a decade.
Don't Let Your Divorce Become a Disaster!
Mediate with us instead.
If you want a high quality mediation that is peaceful, cost-effective and results in a fair and thorough agreement while receiving personalized divorce support from a compassionate team of professionals, choose Equitable Mediation.
If you or your spouse lives in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Washington State, or Michigan, learn more about the benefits of working with us.
Then, when you are ready to start the divorce process, take the next step and book an initial meeting for the two of you!
The choices you make before you start your divorce are critical.
Regardless of how many years you've been married, whether you're the one who wants the divorce, your spouse does or you're both on the same page, the choices you make before you start your divorce will likely set the tone for how the entire process will unfold for you and your children.
And how peaceful, fair, child-focused and cost-effective your divorce will (or won't) be.
But you can only make smart choices if you take the time to get educated and prepare for divorce first.
That's exactly why we created a downloadable kit for smart people like you - to help you do just that!
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.