Robert G. Smith, PLLC

Divorce and Social Security spousal benefits

Some New York residents may have heard about the rumored divorce between Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. According to multiple sources, the couple is preparing to end their marriage that has lasted for nearly 10 years. Since they are not waiting until that milestone has been reached, they will be forfeiting some Social Security spousal benefits they may have been able to claim in the future, although those benefits will not likely matter to them, given their current high net worths.

Some Social Security spousal benefits are only available to people who have been married for at least 10 years. For example, a divorced person who was married for at least that amount of time and who has not since remarried may be able to use the former spouse's earning records for the purposes of Social Security retirement benefits. This can often be valuable, as in many marriages one party has earned far more than the other who stayed home to attend to household and family duties.

Other benefits are available as well. In some cases, if one spouse dies, the survivor can elect to step up to a deceased spouse's higher benefits. However, this again is only available for couples who had been married for at least 10 years.

The divorce process is often both difficult and emotional, and many people just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. However, those who are nearing their 10th anniversaries may want to wait in order to be eventually able to obtain spousal benefits. A family law attorney may advise a spouse who is contemplating divorce that those benefits may be an important consideration during property division negotiations, even when retirement is far into the future.

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Robert G. Smith, PLLC
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Phone: 212-499-0940
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