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Divorce’s Influence on Social Security

By Sheryl Rentz on March 30, 2011

An article recently featured in the Los Angeles Times discussed divorce’s affect on a person’s plans for retirement as well as future claims for Social Security benefits. Since Social Security is the primary source of income for approximately 72 percent of unmarried retirees, many of whom are single due to divorce, understanding a few key points regarding spousal and survival benefits should be a priority, particularly for those approaching retirement age. Knowing the details of these benefits can help someone avoid making a costly error that could negatively affect their financial future.

Anyone who has been married for at least 10 years to someone who was paying into the system of Social Security is entitled to spousal benefits, even if they are divorced from that person and did not pay into the system themselves. If spousal benefits are claimed at retirement, typically they amount to approximately 50 percent of the full benefits of the wage earner. It is important to be aware that if these benefits are claimed early, the amount will be reduced. If someone has paid into the system and was married to someone for 10 years who also paid into the system, they are also entitled to benefits on their own work record, but must choose which to claim. Both benefits cannot be claimed.

However, if someone has divorced and remarries before turning 60, they will lose their ability to claim their former spouse’s spousal or survivor benefits. If someone has divorced and remarries after 60, they retain their rights to their former spouse’s spousal or survivor benefits for the rest of their life. If someone is now single but has been married to more than one person for over 10 years each, they are eligible for spousal benefits based upon each former spouse, but must chose which to claim.

If someone was married to more than one person for over 10 years each and their second spouse dies before the person makes a claim to their Social Security benefits, they are able to chose between their deceased spouse’s survivor benefits and their former spouse’s spousal benefits. Typically, survival benefits are chosen since they are more generous, as they are 100 percent of a working person’s entitlement, while spousal benefits are just 50 percent.

There are many things someone in Pennsylvania must consider during the divorce process: issues of child custody, property division, and more. Oftentimes a person can overlook retirement accounts and other plans for their financial future, which can have life-long and negative consequences. If you are facing divorce in Pennsylvania, talk with Philadelphia retirement accounts divorce lawyer Sheryl R. Rentz. She can help you understand the impact of divorce on your retirement savings and on future Social Security benefits claims. To learn how Sheryl R. Rentz can help you plan for your financial future, call 610-645-0100 today. Get the retirement you deserve.

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