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California divorce timing can impact Social Security benefits

A recently released report suggests that California couples who are considering divorce should pay close attention to the timing of their filing. The decision on when to file for divorce may have significant ramifications for both spouses if they are approaching their 10th wedding anniversary. This is because the minimum duration of a marriage that entitles a spouse to claim a share of his or her former partner's Social Security benefits is 10 years.

For couples who are married more than 10 years, a spouse may be eligible to collect as much as 50 percent of the Social Security benefit of his or her ex, as long as their own benefit does not exceed that amount. The collecting spouse must also be at least 62 years old and unmarried. The ex-spouse can collect from the account regardless of whether their former partner continues to work.

The federal government considers a couple to be married until the date that a final divorce decree is issued. Therefore, for those couples who are approaching the 10-year mark, the timing of a divorce is of utmost importance. For a spouse who wishes to claim entitlement to his or her ex's Social Security, waiting until that timeline has been reached could impact his or her income following the divorce during retirement.

This is an example of a detail that may only affect a small number of divorcing couples, namely those who are near the 10-year mark. However, the issue does illustrate the myriad details that can affect the outcome of a divorce, as well as the importance of understanding the legal aspects of the divorce process. Without comprehensive knowledge of matters pertaining to divorce in California, mistakes can be made that can have detrimental effects on one's future financial stability.

Source: NewsObserver.com, "Filing for divorce can raise Social Security questions," Holly Nicholson, Nov. 3, 2012

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