When older Colorado couples decide to divorce, they may want to keep in mind the way that the end of the marriage could affect their Social Security benefits. While these benefits may be insufficient to fully provide for retirement, many people who are divorced may be owed more than they think. By staying aware of the rules, people can help to make sure that they get all of the retirement income they are entitled to. When people are married, both spouses may be eligible for Social Security based on one spouse's work record.
However, some of those benefits may also be available to those who are divorced, especially if the split came after a longer marriage. In order for people to begin claiming retirement benefits based on their former spouse's work record, they must have been married for at least 10 years. Remarried people are ineligible to claim in this way, and people will only be eligible to - or want to - make this claim if they will receive more than they would based on their own work record. Claiming rights to benefits based on a former spouse's work income will not affect or lower his or her own Social Security income.
In general, people who meet these conditions can begin claiming their former spouse's Social Security benefits when they reach full retirement age. A former spouse may be able to receive up to 50% of the amount that the other one receives. For couples with a large disparity in incomes, this can be a substantial difference.
A growing number of people are choosing to divorce later in life, and Social Security is only one of the programs affected. A family law attorney may advise people going through a "gray divorce" about property division and retirement planning.