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Social Security rules for divorcees

The number of gray divorces, which are divorces involving couples over the age of 50, have risen sharply in California and around the country in recent years, which means issues like pension plans and retirement income are being discussed far more often in property division and spousal support negotiations. Many nonworking spouses believe that divorcing will prevent them from receiving Social Security benefits, but that is not necessarily true.

Divorcee benefits

Nonworking spouses or spouses who worked only part-time jobs are eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on their former husband or wife’s contributions after they divorce as long as they were married for at least 10 years and have not remarried. However, the amount divorced spouses receive is reduced if they elect to start receiving benefits at the age of 62 instead of waiting until they reach their full retirement age. The full retirement age is based on an individual’s year of birth, and it is 65 for most Americans.

When benefits become available

Divorced spouses can begin to receive Social Security benefits even if their former husband or wife is still working as long as they have been divorced for two years or longer and their former spouse is at least 62 years of age. The benefits paid in these situations are based on what the working spouse would be entitled to at their full retirement age. Divorced spouses are entitled to monthly benefits equal to half of this amount when they reach their full retirement age.

Complex financial issues

The financial matters discussed during gray divorce negotiations are important and often complex. To ensure that their clients make informed and prudent decisions, experienced family law attorneys may call on experts such as financial planners, retirement specialists and investment advisors to explain these issues and the various options available.