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Divorce may affect social security benefits

Many estranged spouses in Rhode Island would agree that divorce can often lead to an increased financial burden, siimply because there is a separation of assets in most cases. An additional burden is almost always placed on the shoulders of a newly divorced couple, especially in cases in which one of the spouses was financially dependent on the other. However, few divorced couples, especially senior citizens, realize the effect that divorce can have on their social security benefits.

Retirees are often unaware of how "for richer or for poorer" literally plays out in marriages, as well as in divorces. If someone has been married for ten years or more and has been divorced for at least two years, he or she is eligible for a divorced spousal benefit. That individual can claim either his or her own benefit or the benefit of his or her former spouse, whichever is higher. The person also may be eligible for both benefits. Divorced spouses may be able to optimize social security benefits by beginning divorced spousal benefits at age 66, which is the current full retirement age, and then eventually switch over to their own benefits at age 70.

However, these individuals would lose spousal social security benefits after divorce if they remarry. Additionally, if someone was married for over ten years in two marriages, then that person would be eligible for either spousal benefits or the higher of the two available benefits. Accordingly, if both or multiple ex-spouses of that person are still not married, they also are eligible for spousal benefits from the former's social security benefits.

Rhode Island residents know that receiving social security benefits has its advantages. However, it can be very complicated for the uninitiated. A financial and legal professional may be able to help in order to properly optimize social security benefits for greater financial security.

Source: Fox Business, "5 ways divorce can impact your social security benefits," May 13, 2014

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