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Social Security spousal benefits and divorce

Couples who are going through a divorce and dividing up property, bank accounts, investments sometimes don't think much about Social Security benefits. This is particularly true for those who are a long way from retiring and having to depend, at least in part, on those benefits.

However, it's never too early to look into whether you will still be eligible to receive spousal benefits based on your ex's earnings and what actions can impact that eligibility. That's particularly important for those nearing or in retirement, as more and more divorcing couples are.

In order to be eligible to apply for ex-spousal Social Security benefits, you need to meet several qualifications:

-- You must have been married for at least ten years.

-- You must have been divorced for at least two years.

-- You may not be remarried (unless you remarry after you turn 60 and your ex-spouse has died).

Couples who are getting close to retirement and who have a significant amount of Social Security benefits awaiting them may find it worthwhile to strategize in order to get the maximum spousal benefits. For example, if they're nearing the ten-year mark of their marriage, they may postpone having it finalized until they've passed that date.

Determining how to make the most of your Social Security retirement benefits (such as postponing collecting on them) can be confusing for anyone. However, divorce (and remarriage) can complicate things further. Your Michigan family law attorney can provide guidance, but it may be wise to consult with a financial and/or tax advisor as well. The decisions you make in this matter can impact how comfortably you live in retirement.

Source: NerdWallet, "Divorce Doesn’t Preclude Social Security Spousal Benefits," Jim Ludwick, CFP, July 13, 2016

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