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Social Security benefits and the timing of a divorce

When a couple decides to end their marriage, sometimes the divorce proceedings can drag on while arguments persist over alimony or child custody. While contentious divorces are hard on everyone in a family, there are some cases where divorcing too soon could lead to issues later on. New Jersey residents may have read about the marital woes of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, and their rumored decision to finalize their divorce before they had been married for 10 years illustrates an important point about when it may actually be helpful to wait until splitting up.

Celebrity media outlets are speculating that the two stars are ending their marriage and that they want to finalize everything before the 10-year mark. The couple has significant assets, so they are likely not worried about the Social Security benefits others might need to consider when divorcing. Couples who are married for more than 10 years could claim Social Security spousal benefits in the future even after a divorce.

If a couple has been married for at least 10 years, one spouse can start receiving benefits at 62 instead of waiting until full retirement age. A former spouse could also claim the other partner's retirement benefits early while waiting until full retirement age to collect his or her own benefits, which could still earn this spouse the full amount of retirement credits.

It is understandably difficult for younger couples to worry about retirement benefits when both parties want to move on from a marriage, but considerations like this could help either spouse in the future. Using a former partner's Social Security benefits does not hurt that person even if he or she is remarried. A family law attorney might assist a divorcing client in the negotiation of a settlement agreement that takes these future matters into account.

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