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Spousal benefits from Social Security after a divorce

A substantial part of income for retirees comes from Social Security benefits. After years of paying into the program, there is no reason to settle for less than the highest amount one can get. Sometimes, one spouse may receive a higher benefit than the other. In California and other states, ex-wives or husbands may be entitled to spousal benefits from Social Security after a divorce.

Spousal benefit eligibility is for those who divorce after ten or more years of marriage. If a person remains unmarried and is at least 62-years-old, he or she may be entitled to one half of a former spouse's retirement benefit. These benefits are only worth considering if the amount is more than double one's own Social Security amount.

Social Security can be complicated, but there are ways to increase benefits that many retirees are unaware of, so they end up leaving money on the table. Studies show that depending on retirement income, 85 percent of Social Security benefits may be taxable if combined income exceeds a specific dollar amount. To avoid or minimize taxes, one should get as much income from nontaxable sources, such as a Roth account, that won't affect combined income.

Divorce is never easy, especially as one approaches retirement age. Knowing this program can provide a large portion of retirement income may help relieve some of the stress one may feel. In California, retirees who have questions about spousal benefits through Social Security may benefit from speaking with a professional to help them prepare for retirement and enjoy their golden years.

Source: fool.com, "4 Things You Should Know About Social Security", Wendy Connick, Jan. 18, 2018

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