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Understanding Social Security benefits and divorce

Many older couples who get divorced in California worry about dividing up financial assets and other large marital property, such as the family home. These soon-to-be exes want to make sure they have enough resources going into their later years. For those who are retired and eligible to receive social security benefits, understanding how the system works in regard to divorce can be extremely important.

If a marriage lasted for at least a decade, the ex may be eligible to seek spousal benefits. This is a major part of Social Security. Even if the former spouse has low earnings or has never worked, he or she could still be eligible to collect up to half of the other ex's full benefits. However, it is important to note that there are other conditions that must be met for a person to be eligible. For example, the former spouse must be unmarried, be at least 62, have an ex-spouse who is entitled to Social Security payments and have benefits that are less than that of the ex-spouse.

While former spouses can start to receive Social Security at 62, full retirement age is now considered to be 67. If a person takes his or her benefits before reaching full retirement age, those benefits will be reduced.

For those who have been married for a lengthy period of time, divorce can be a long, difficult process. That's why it's often wise to retain a family law attorney who understands the property division process. Legal counsel could help by determining which marital assets are eligible to be divided.

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