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How will divorce affect your Social Security benefits?

The way Social Security benefits work, the amount you receive at retirement depends in large part on how much you earned in income while you were working. In many households, one spouse is the sole breadwinner and the other spouse works as a homemaker. In other cases, both spouses work, but one earns significantly more than the other.

This usually means that one spouse’s Social Security benefits will be much higher than the other’s. For a married couple, this may not be a big deal, since the funds will be comingled anyway. But a person considering divorce later in life may have to wonder where the money will come from once they are single.

As Fox Business explains, divorced people can claim a Social Security benefit based on their former spouse’s work record, as long as the exes were married at least 10 consecutive years. In addition, once the ex with the larger benefit dies, the other ex may be entitled to “surviving divorced spouse” benefits. These are the same as the benefit a widow or widower receives, which is 100 percent of what the deceased was receiving at the time of his or her death.

Social Security is an important part of any retirement plan, but few can rely on it solely during their golden years. Someone going through so-called “gray divorce” must keep this in mind when negotiating division of property and spousal support. With proper planning, it is possible to have a financially comfortable retirement after divorce.

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