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Divorce and SS benefits: a need-to-know for gray divorcees, P.2

In our last post, we began looking at the importance of the 10-year mark for marriage for purposes of Social Security retirement income. As we noted, ex-spouses who have not remarried are able to receive payments based on their former spouse’s record. For older couples who are contemplating divorce, timing may therefore become an issue.

An additional benefit available on a limited basis as a result of changes made last year allows divorced individuals who reached the age of 62 by the beginning of 2016 to file a restricted application for benefits at the age of 66, which would allow them to collect benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record while their own record continues to accrue until the age of 70. During that time, such individuals would be able to switch over to their own retirement benefit it ever became greater their ex-spousal benefit. 

Another change made to the law allows only those who reached the full retirement age of 66 before April 29 to file and suspend their benefit in order to earn delayed retirement credits and allow their dependents and spouse to receive benefits on their record during the suspension. Divorce could affect this benefit, of course.

Social Security law does periodically go through changes, and it is important for older Americans to take these changes into account when planning for divorce. In many cases, delaying divorce will not be desirable, despite the financial benefits of waiting. In such cases, property division negotiations can take into account any loss of income, particularly if the other spouse is pushing for divorce.

Having a strong advocate in divorce is important in any case, but especially for older Americans who are at risk for financial instability following divorce.

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