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What Is the 10-Year Divorce Rule in Michigan?

What Is the 10-Year Divorce Rule in Michigan?

When filing for divorce, many couples don’t realize that the duration of their marriage can have a direct impact on the outcome of their settlement. However, in Michigan, long-term marriages may be subject to a law known as the 10-year divorce rule. This rule can influence which assets both spouses are entitled to. 

Navigating any divorce is a difficult and delicate process, but it can be even more challenging after a long marriage. Take a closer look at what the 10-year divorce rule is, how it works, and what assets it may affect. 

Understanding the 10-Year Divorce Rule

As the name suggests, the 10-year divorce rule applies to marriages that lasted 10 or more years. After this amount of time, many couples have intertwined retirement accounts or pensions, which is exactly the problem that this rule is meant to address. 

Should a couple get divorced after ten years, the spouse with fewer earnings or a smaller retirement account may apply for a monthly benefit. This benefit can be worth up to 50% of the value of the higher earner’s monthly retirement earnings. 

When it comes to this benefit, there are two caveats that are helpful to know. First, the benefit has no effect on the higher earner’s retirement account. It is an entirely separate arrangement that does not cost either party any money. Also, should the lower earner remarry, they will forgo their claim to such a benefit. 

What Benefits Does the 10-Year Rule Cover?

Michigan’s 10-year divorce rule mainly applies to retirement benefits. Depending on your age and specific circumstances, such benefits could include:

  • Stocks and investments
  • Military pensions
  • Federal, state, and local pensions
  • Personal injury settlements 

There’s a common misconception that this rule also includes Social Security benefits, but those benefits are covered by separate federal legislation.

For any benefit, however, couples will be required to show documentation that proves the age and duration of their marriage, and they will forfeit the benefits if they remarry.

Limitations to the 10-Year Rule

While the 10-year divorce rule offers a structured approach to addressing common financial concerns within long-term marriages, couples should be aware that the rule does not directly influence alimony. 

Many people believe that spouses in a long-term marriage will automatically be awarded alimony, but that isn’t the case. The court may take the length of your marriage into account when determining whether to award spousal support, but the final decision depends on a myriad of other factors, such as:

  • The economic position or earning potential of both spouses
  • Contributions to marital property
  • Custodial arrangements 

Since Michigan is an equitable distribution state, the courts will divide assets and benefits in a way that is deemed fair in the eyes of a judge — and that includes alimony.

How a Michigan Divorce Lawyer Can Help

Navigating divorce is never easy, but long-term marriages come with even more obstacles and complications. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you cut through the legal jargon and make well-informed decisions that protect your interests and your family’s future. 


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