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Social Security can affect the timing of a divorce

Alaska fans of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner may be waiting in anticipation of finding out whether the rumors of their impending divorce are true. The couple has been married for nearly 10 years. However, estate planning and family law attorneys may also be interested in seeing if they set an example for clients of the possible importance of waiting until after that milestone has been achieved before ending a marriage.

Although the couple may be in the news for their high-asset divorce, their situation can be a learning tool for many less-wealthy people based on the length of the marriage. This is because the Social Security Administration allows a former spouse to be eligible to receive benefits off of the other's earnings record. This is true only if the couple was married for at least 10 years before the divorce and the person seeking benefits has not remarried.

Additionally, a person who had been married for at least that long can opt to receive his or her Social Security benefit at age 62 instead of waiting for full retirement age at 66 or 67. The other spouse may choose to wait until full retirement age so that his or her benefit is not reduced. Even if one party opts for earlier retirement, this does not affect the other spouse's ability to receive the full benefit at full retirement age. If the spouse that waited dies first, the other spouse can receive the full benefit that the deceased spouse was receiving before he or she died.

A person who is considering divorce may want to discuss the timing of such a move with a family law attorney. Although retirement may be far in the future, the Social Security advantages may have an impact on more current concerns like spousal support or property division.

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