With the rise of divorce among older married couples -- so-called “gray divorce”-- some couples going through divorce mediation have questions about Social Security income and how it factors into their financial agreement. Divorcing clients that are close to retirement age are wise to consider the options for this income stream as part of their financial futures.
At Westfield Mediation, LLC, we always explain to our clients that the rules regarding Social Security are complicated and often changing, so it is best to consult with the Social Security Administration and/or an elder law attorney before making any binding decisions.
Generally speaking, based on current rules, ex-spouses may elect to receive one-half of the amount of their ex-spouse’s Social Security instead of an amount based on their own work history, as long as the parties had been married for at least ten years. The claiming ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old and not remarried. In addition, the benefit the claiming ex-spouse would receive based on his/her ex-spouse’s work history must be more than the amount that the claiming ex-spouse would receive from his/her own work history. The earliest ex-spouses could claim these benefits is age 62, and the latest is at age 70 years. (Clients over a certain age may be entitled to receive their ex-spouse’s benefit at age 62 and their own benefit at age 70). It is important to note that claims by ex-spouses do not reduce the amount of the earner’s own Social Security benefit.
To figure out when would be the best time to claim these benefits, divorced clients must consider their personal financial circumstances and health conditions. In divorce mediation, we discuss the options with our clients once they have had an opportunity to learn about the specific possibilities available to them by gathering information from outside resources. By addressing these important income issues in mediation, we reduce our clients’ stress and better prepare them for the days ahead.