With more couples in California choosing to end their marriage later in life, many may wonder how they will survive their retirement years in their newly single situation. No matter a person's age at divorce, the effect divorce can have on finances is often brutal. For older couples, a lifetime of planning for retirement years together may not leave enough if the household is divided. For some spouses, this is where understanding Social Security benefits can prove beneficial.
Few people may realize that, even after divorce and if certain conditions are met, ex-spouses are still entitled to receive Social Security benefits based on the employment record of their former spouse. This can be a life-saving benefit, particularly for spouses who didn't work throughout the marriage. Restrictions may apply, but for couples who were married for at least 10 years and have the proper documentation, receiving Social Security spousal benefits is a possibility.
Spousal benefits cannot be cut off by an ex-spouse, and it is still possible to receive Social Security payments even if an ex-spouse gets remarried. Collecting on an ex-spouse's employment record will not affect the amount to which he or she is entitled. It is also possible to collect this benefit without an ex-spouse knowing, unless the Social Security Administration needs to contact them for further information.
Figuring out post divorce finances can be difficult for California couples, particularly for spouses who have been dependent upon their soon to be ex for support. Knowing about the ability to collect Social Security benefits could certainly come in handy when discussing the division of assets in a divorce. Not that this information should change how assets are divided, but knowing extra monetary support will be available can make the financial transition from married life to single life much easier to handle.
Source: Forbes, "Getting Social Security Benefits After divorce", John Wasik, July 21, 2014