About 21% of the married couples in Virginia and around the country will rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits during their retirements according to government figures. This is a problem because these benefits will only replace about 40% of their pre-retirement incomes. While the situation may seem especially grim for older nonworking spouses who wish to divorce, it is actually made somewhat easier by the Social Security Administration’s rules for divorcees.
The SSA allows divorced spouses who have never worked to receive up to 50% of the benefits their former wives or husbands are entitled to. Divorcees who worked and contributed to Social Security are also entitled to additional payments if their benefits do not meet the 50% threshold. These benefits are available to divorcees who have not remarried and were married for 10 years or longer.
Divorced spouses can begin to receive Social Security benefits when they reach the age of 62, but they will receive more if they choose to wait until they reach the full retirement age for their year of birth. For most people, the full retirement age is 66 or 67. Divorcees who have been divorced for at least two years may receive benefits based on their former husband or wife’s contributions even if their former spouse is still working. However, payments are only made if the former spouse is at least 62 years of age and eligible to receive benefits.
Experienced family law attorneys may spend considerable time discussing Social Security benefits and retirement accounts during a gray divorce. Attorneys might also ask financial advisors and retirement planners to explain how retirement funds can be divided in a divorce in a way that avoids additional taxes and penalties. When these issues are complex and traditional negotiations are unproductive, attorneys may be able to suggest an alternative venue like mediation.