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Divorce, Social Security benefits and you: What you need to know

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As we have mentioned many times before on our blog, many couples are waiting until later in life to divorce. Whether because of timing or a newfound social acceptance, "grey divorce" has become a popular alternative to staying in a troubled marriage after retirement. But as we have pointed out in past posts, waiting to divorce until later in life can create difficulties as well as raise a number of questions.

One area that typically raises concerns involves a person's ability to claim Social Security benefits. As you may or may not know, the Social Security Administration allows a person to collect spousal benefits prior to their own full retirement age if their spouse is of full retirement age. This allows a couple to maximize their retirement benefits, which typically ends up being a main source of income in most cases. But what happens if the couple divorces? Can they still receive spousal benefits?

Though you might immediately assume that the answer to this question is no, the answer is actually yes, in some cases. As the Social Security Administration explains, divorced spouses can collect benefits based on their ex-spouse's work history if:

  • The applicant has not remarried
  • Their ex-spouse is at least 62 years of age or older
  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • The applicant is entitled to retirement or disability benefits
  • The applicant's benefit amount from their own work history is less than what they would receive from their spouse's record

If these requirements have left you feeling a little confused, you wouldn't be alone. Many people have questions about how divorce will impact their retirement plans, especially if an individual is already well into the later years of their life.

If you're confused about how divorce will affect your retirement plans, remember that talking to a skilled family law attorney is a good option, especially because they can explain how your future retirement plans could be affected by the decisions made during the divorce process now.

Source: The Social Security Administration, "Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse," Accessed Feb. 1, 2016

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