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  • Writer's pictureSeth Eric Springer, Esq.

What Is the 10-Year Marriage Rule?

Getting a divorce is never an easy decision to make. Besides the emotional and financial burdens, the divorcing spouses must deal with legal issues which can further complicate matters. The most notable disputes include the division of assets, alimony, and social security benefits.

However, according to the law, the duration of their marriage can have a significant role in resolving these crucial segments most couples argue over. At this point, many people encounter the term ‘10-year marriage rule’.

But, what does it stand for? And why do some people deliberately wait for their 10th anniversary before entering the divorce process, while others are trying to file the dissolution papers before passing this important milestone?

10-Year Marriage Rule

10-Year Marriage Rule

In the eyes of the law, marriage is divided into two categories — short-term and long-term unions. However, the ‘10-year marriage rule’ represents a kind of a threshold between the two.

In some states, marriages of longer duration (10 years or more) have special spousal support laws which protect financially disadvantaged spouses. Despite popular opinion, the rule is not as straightforward as it may seem and includes many misconceptions.

One of the fictional notions people believe is that a spouse can get indefinite alimony. Another implies an equal division in assets, social security benefits, and more. (For further details, you can also learn about the rights of a wife in a divorce.)

Each divorce case is individual and, as such, demands unique circumstances. While the duration of a marriage is an influential factor, there are a number of other aspects to consider before terminating the marriage.

The Division of Assets

It is safe to assume that the spouses would own joint property after ten (or more) years of marriage. Additionally, long-term unions often include joint assets and liabilities, bank accounts, and retirement funds. Similarly, some spouses may have embarked on new business ventures during the marriage.

Considering the number of shared assets and revenue, it could be challenging to determine the portion each spouse is entitled to. However, the court’s decision on the division of the assets most commonly depends on which county it operates under.

In the US, there are equitable distribution states and community property states. For example, in Pennsylvania — an equitable distribution state, the court divides the property based on a judge’s determination of what is fair in each case. Some of the factors that may influence the decision are:

● The duration of the marriage

● The economic circumstances of each spouse when the division of property becomes


● The age, health, income, and employability of each spouse

● The value of non-marital assets each spouse has

● The previous marriages of either spouse

On the other hand, in community property states, such as California, the court mostly attempts an equal distribution of assets between the spouses.

However, there are exceptions to this practice, such as non-marital assets. Those assets can include the property that one of the spouses owned prior to marriage, gifts from someone outside of the marriage, and more.


Generally speaking, the spouse with a higher income should pay spousal alimony. During the divorce trial, when a judge determines the duration of the alimony, the 10-year mark is legally significant. However, there is a belief that the spouse with a lower income can receive alimony for an indefinite period. Such a notion is incorrect.

Simply put, the 10-year marriage rule means that the court will have jurisdiction after the divorce is granted. So, if the circumstances change, the court can change the decision. The most common reasons for such alterations occur when one of the spouses remarries, loses their job, gets sick, or experiences substantial financial losses.

Furthermore, the length of marriage also determines for how long a former spouse will receive alimony payments. The general rule is — one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. For example, if the marriage lasted for 15 years, the alimony should last for 5.

Social Security Benefits

The famed 10-year rule can extend to Social Security benefits as well. If the couple fulfills the criteria of a long-term marriage, the low-income spouse can qualify to get these benefits based on their ex-spouse’s income. In order to apply for Social Security benefits, former spouses must meet the following criteria:

● They are of eligible age (62 or older),

● They are single at the time they want to collect the benefits,

● Their ex-spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits.

Moreover, this rule can also apply to military benefits. It is commonly known as the 10/10 rule (ten years of marriage / ten years of service). In such situations, the disadvantaged spouse can receive a part of their partner’s military retirement pay. However, they must meet two conditions to be eligible for such benefits:

● The marriage lasted for 10 years (or more).

● One of the spouses served in the military for 10 years during the marriage.

To know more about the 10-year marriage rule and other aspects related to divorce in Pennsylvania, you can seek the advice of a good York PA divorce attorney.

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