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Social Security benefits should not be overlooked during divorce

Couples in California who are considering divorce may want to think about their Social Security benefits. If a marriage lasts for at least 10 years, then an ex-spouse could, with a few exceptions, claim ex-spouse Social Security benefits upon reaching retirement age.

To qualify for the benefit, a person will need to present documentation to the Social Security Administration. Crucial documents include the marriage license and divorce decree. The dates on these official documents will determine the exact length of a marriage. If a person has not quite reached 10 years of marriage, financial experts recommend waiting to finalize the divorce until the decade mark has been passed. After meeting the requirements to receive a benefit, a person must wait for two years before claiming the benefits.

Remarriage after gaining these benefits must be carefully considered. A new marriage could cause the benefits to cease. The death of an ex-spouse, however, could create an exemption to the remarriage rule. For a person age 60 or older, a new marriage might not end the ex-spousal benefit as long as that benefit is larger.

Complex rules govern all Social Security benefit calculations. A person who is ending a marriage may want to consult a financial adviser or attorney before making any final decisions. An attorney could research how the laws might apply to the division of all retirement accounts, such as a company pension or 401(k). A high-asset divorce in particular might raise many questions about the division of assets and debts. An attorney may represent the person during negotiations. With legal advice, the person could become informed about rights to certain assets before agreeing to divorce terms.

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