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How do Social Security benefits factor into divorce?

In recent years, there's been a lot written about the increase in the number of U.S. divorces among couples age 50 and older. For these individuals, rather than child custody of minor-aged children, major divorce concerns typically focus on how to fund one’s retirement.

Like younger divorcing couples, so-called gray divorcees are able to benefit from the division of marital property and assets. Additionally, individuals who qualify may also be able to start receiving Social Security benefits based upon an ex-spouse’s employment.

Individuals who are at least age 62, have been divorced for at least two years but were married for 10 or more years and are currently single can collect Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse's earnings. Additionally, an ex-spouse must be eligible to receive benefits even if he or she hasn’t yet filed to take benefits. 

For individuals who divorced later in life and took a financial hit, taking advantage of an ex-spouse's Social Security eligibility can be a tremendous financial help. What's more, electing to receive benefits on an ex-spouse's record doesn't impact an ex’s benefits amount. Additionally, an individual may elect to draw from an ex's benefits at age 62 and delay taking their own retirement benefits until a later date, at which time they would take only their own higher benefit amount.

Individuals who divorce when they are age 50 or older must take many financial factors into account. For those who are eligible, drawing upon an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits can aid in affording one the ability to live out their retirement years as originally intended.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse," 2014  

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