Claiming retirement benefits from an ex-spouse after divorce

On behalf of Loughmiller Higgins, Attorneys at Law posted in Divorce on Thursday, March 21, 2013.

When negotiating one’s divorce settlement, many Texas spouses make the mistake of failing to focus on the big picture. It can be easy to allow recent or current resentments and other emotions to influence the decision-making process. However, failing to adequately address one’s future financial needs during divorce can be financially devastating, especially when it comes to retirement planning.

Once a divorce is final, many spouses have questions concerning their ability to collect on the Social Security benefits of their former husband or wife. This can be especially confusing in cases in which there are multiple exes. Determining eligibility to collect on these benefits can be difficult.

One place to start is the realization that one cannot collect on the benefits of multiple spouses at the same time, no matter how long or recent the marriage. However, it is possible to choose the former spouse with the higher wage record and pursue those benefits. It is also important to remember that in order to be eligible, the receiving spouse must be unmarried. The one exception to this is in cases in which one’s former spouse is deceased and the surviving ex marries later in life.

While it is possible to address these issues long after a divorce has occurred, the better practice would be to fully pursue retirement funding options during the divorce process. Social Security benefits can be claimed at a later time, but retirement savings held in investments or employer-funded accounts must be dealt with before the divorce is final. For Texas spouses who are uncertain how to best protect their future financial stability, it may be advisable to work with a legal advisor who can help determine all available options and structure a settlement that protects one’s interests.

Source: Fox Business, “Divorce Doesn’t have to Separate You from Benefits,” Don Taylor, March 13, 2013

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