Gray Divorce Presents Social Security Challenges

by | Apr 24, 2017

Sometimes complete separation may be necessary, but are you prepared for life after divorce? If you’re over 50 and considering divorce, there are some important factors to consider on your financial behalf.

Have either you or your spouse applied for retirement benefits yet? Delaying seeking financial help may take some of these opportunities away if you’re not careful to start your planning early.

Divorce at any age is stressful, but we are here to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Investment editor Mary Beth Franklin has laid some helpful tips below as you begin the process.

While overall divorce rates in the U.S. remained stable between 1990 and 2010, gray divorce among spouses age 50 or older doubled during the same 20-year period, jeopardizing the retirement security of millions of baby boomers.


Now, one in four Americans getting a divorce is 50 or older, according to a 2013 study at Bowling Green State University. Chalk it up to another side effect of increasing longevity. Apparently, the prospect of living 20 or 30 years unhappily ever after in retirement is one reason behind the gray divorce trend.


A recent email from an InvestmentNews reader illustrates some of those challenges and demonstrates how older divorcing spouses and their financial advisers need to understand the nuances of Social Security claiming rules in such increasingly common situations.


Normally, a couple must be married at least 10 years before divorcing for one ex-spouse to be able to claim Social Security benefits on the other former spouse’s earnings record. To claim benefits as an ex-spouse, the person claiming benefits must remain unmarried.


Additionally, the couple must be divorced for at least two years before a former spouse can file for spousal benefits on an ex’s earnings record if the ex has not yet claimed Social Security benefits. That’s known as being independently entitled to a Social Security spousal benefit. Both former spouses must be at least 62 years old to exercise this option.

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