Can a divorce affect your Social Security benefits?
When it comes to filing for divorce, there are a lot of things that couples need to handle, including property division, spousal support and, if the couple has children, any choices that have to do with their well-being. But have you considered your Social Security retirement benefits or those of your spouse? If you’re like most of our Florida readers, you probably haven’t, even though experts say you should.
According to the Social Security Administration, people who divorce can receive benefits based on their ex-spouse’s earnings, provided they meet a few requirements. For starters, the marriage needs to have lasted at least 10 years. Also, the ex-spouse attempting to collect higher benefits must have lower Social Security benefits based on their own earnings. Furthermore, an ex-spouse must be age 62 or older, not remarried, and entitled to Social Security retirement benefits. After meeting these requirements, an ex-spouse can often collect higher benefits and maximize their retirement income.
Few of our readers may know about this 10-year-marriage stipulation and fewer still may know that it could be considered a factor in their divorce. Some experts say that this usually isn’t considered by couples under the age of 35 because they often consider remarrying and likely aren’t thinking about retirement just yet. But for couples age 55 and older, an economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that “divorces increase by about 20 percent around the 10-year cutoff.”
Knowing this, older couples considering divorce might want to postpone their divorce until their marriage has passed the 10-year mark, especially if they want to maximize their retirement benefits. It’s certainly something our readers might consider, especially if they’ve never thought about the effects a divorce can have on retirement benefits.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “How divorce, remarriage impact Social Security,” Robert Powell, Feb. 18, 2014