Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Divorcing early could affect social security benefits

Divorcing after the age of 55 creates unique issues which should be accounted for prior to finalizing a divorce. Unlike their 30-something counterparts, older couples do not have decades to replenish retirement and bank accounts after a divorce. Because they are at what is supposed to be the end of their working careers, serious consideration should be given to their current and future financial situation before proceeding with a divorce. One key area of benefits that is affected by the length of a marriage is social security benefits.

Recently conducted research has revealed a slight uptick in divorces after the ten-year mark. The reason for such an uptick may be related to the fact that spouses are entitled to the social security benefits of their spouse if their marriage lasted for at least ten years. Claiming a spouse's benefits can have many benefits, including the ability to postpone withdrawing one's own benefits until the age of 70 when they can be maximized.

An ex-spouse can claim social security spousal benefits in situations where the marriage lasted longer than ten years, the ex-spouse isn't remarried, and is older than 62. For an ex-spouse to claim the benefits their own benefits would have to be less than those of their ex-spouse. Many couples divorcing after the age of 55 will have no issue meeting the ten year requirement, but for others, staying in a marriage a few extra months or even a year or longer may be worth it in the long term.

Source: MarketWatch, "How divorce, remarriage impact Social Security," Robert Powell, February 18, 2014

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