Today, approximately 25% of U.S. divorces involve couples over the age of 50. Beyond the emotional impact that divorce can have on couples of any age that decide to split, it can have a potentially devastating effect on the retirement plans of those who divorce later in life.
Divorce after 50 usually results in a loss of income for both parties, which can mean working longer to fund a single retirement. While Social Security benefits are not subject to division in a divorce, there are some rules that will affect post-divorce income.
For example, you cannot collect benefits on your ex-spouse’s record after a divorce unless the marriage lasted at least 10 consecutive years and you are over age 62. If your ex-spouse dies, you may be eligible for survivor benefits (100% of your ex’s benefits) provided the marriage lasted 10 years, you are at least 60, and you are not already entitled to benefits equal to or greater than your ex-spouse’s benefits.
To get the maximum allowable Social Security benefit following a divorce, you should consider these five smart strategies:
Any Social Security benefit you are receiving on your ex’s record will stop if you remarry unless your ex has died and you are receiving survivor benefits. If that is the case, you can keep survivor benefits and remarry if you wait until you are over the age of 60.
Follow the money.
If you were married to two different people for at least 10 years each and are under the age of 60, you can choose between each former spouse’s Social Security benefits. Obviously, you will want to choose the former spouse who earned the most money so your benefit will be larger. However, if your own earnings were higher than either spouse, you will need to file on your own earnings record.
You’re in control.
You don’t need permission from your ex-spouse to file for Social Security benefits on his or her record. You only need to meet the requirements:
- You must be unmarried
- You must be 62 or older
- Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security benefits
- Your own work record benefit must be less than the benefit you’d receive on your ex-spouse’s work record.
Optimize your own benefit by using spousal benefits.
The longer you wait to file for Social Security benefits on your own record, the higher your benefit will be. If you wait until age 70, you will get 132% of your normal benefit each month. If you are divorced and entitled to spousal benefits, you can start using that benefit between the ages of 62 and 70, then switch to your own record to get the maximum possible benefit.
You don’t have to wait on your ex to file.
Just like you don’t need your ex’s permission to file for Social Security benefits on his or her record, you also don’t have to wait for your ex to file themselves. As soon as you meet the eligibility requirements, you are entitled to file on your ex’s record.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often prove crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.