There is no statutory definition for a “long” marriage in Indiana that would entitle a person to a “full” share of assets in a divorce. In theory, the same rules apply to a marriage which lasts one day and one which lasts 40 years. Practically speaking, however, a short-term marriage (maybe less than 3 years) could lead a judge to award each party their premarital assets and debts and focus on only dividing assets and debts acquired during the marriage.
The parties may not have generated a lot of assets if they were not married very long. This is especially the case if the parties are young and beginning their working careers, and also if most of their income is spent raising kids (and if one of the spouses may have left the workforce to be a stay-at-home parent).
The parties may each have kept a large portion of their assets they owned prior to the marriage in their individual names. Although these assets would still be considered marital assets, it’s likely that the court award will award pre-owned assets to the spouse who initially owned them in a short-term marriage.
Longer marriages (maybe 20 years or more) generally involve more assets. The children may be emancipated or close to emancipation so those issues may be less significant. The parties may be looking towards retirement. One spouse may have substantial retirement accounts while the other spouse may have limited assets because they have been caring for children. In Indiana, the case law generally states that the contribution of a spouse who acts as a homemaker is considered equal to that of the spouse who has been working outside the home.
Even if one party came into a marriage with other premarital assets, it may be more difficult to trace those assets because it is very likely those assets will end up being mixed with other assets during the marriage, which is referred to as “commingling”.
For example, a spouse who had a premarital house solely in their name may seek to keep that house in a divorce. However, if that spouse sells the house and then bought another house that is titled in the names of both spouses, it is much harder to make the same argument.
Similarly, even if a house owned before a marriage is still owned by the same spouse, there may be contribution issues involving the non-owning spouse. For instance, the other spouse may have contributed earnings to paying the mortgage, or they may have helped pay for improvements to the house to make it more valuable. In these cases, the non-owning spouse may have a claim to a portion of the equity of the house.
Aside from divorce law, longer marriages may entitle a spouse to additional benefits. A marriage lasting 10 years or more will entitle a spouse to draw on their spouse’s social security benefits.
The spouse of a service member may receive certain benefits if the spouse has been married a certain number of years while his/her spouse was in the military. The “10/10” rule requires a minimum 10-year marriage which also includes a minimum of 10 years of active military service. A spouse who meets this test may be entitled to a portion of the servicemember’s future retirement benefits directly from the military.
Under the 20/20/20 rule, a spouse who has been married at least 20 years, the military servicemember served 20 years or more, and the parties were married 20 years during the servicemember’s active duty, is entitled to Tricare Health care just as if the parties were still married, which is extremely cheap. The spouse would also be entitled to all military benefits and access to benefits on base. If there is a 20-year marriage, 20 years of service, but only 15 years of overlap, the divorced spouse is entitled to 1 year of Tricare.
Divorce and asset division can be challenging; however, as an experienced Indiana asset distribution attorney, I can ease your burden by providing guidance through every step of the process. Call my office today to schedule a consultation to learn how I can zealously advocate on your behalf.