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How does gray divorce impact Social Security retirement benefits?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Divorce |

When couples who have stayed married for many years divorce after the age of 50, people refer to that turn of events as a gray divorce. Such proceedings in Minnesota are legally the same as any other divorce, but they often result in far more complicating factors for the spouses to address.

Financial stability during retirement is often a major concern. After all, spouses may have saved based on the assumption that they would live together and could also draw against their combined contributions to Social Security. It can be a frightening prospect to divide retirement savings and other assets in a divorce when retirement age is near.

Minnesota state law requires that spouses share their retirement savings, or at least factor their value into property division determinations. Many families have both savings accounts or pensions and also Social Security retirement benefits that they expect to use to supplement their personal savings. What happens with Social Security retirement benefits during a Minnesota divorce?

Dependent spouses still have certain rights

The credits that determine what benefits someone receives from Social Security when they retire are a reflection of how long someone worked and how much income they contributed towards Social Security throughout their career. Spouses who left their careers to raise children or take care of the family home may qualify for benefits based on the income and contributions of the wage-earning spouse even after a divorce. Spouses who did work but did not earn as much as their spouse can also potentially qualify for benefits depending on the difference in income. The claims of a dependent or lower-earning spouse will not impact what the higher-earning spouse receives from the Social Security Administration (SSA) when they retire.

That means that both spouses can count on Social Security retirement benefits to help supplement whatever they retain of marital retirement savings after property division is complete. Although divorcing later in life often means making some economic concessions regarding what someone plans for their retirement years, there are still resources available to help adults live independently when they divorce regardless of their current employment status.

Learning more about the rules that apply to different benefits and resources will make preparing for life after a gray divorce more predictable. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.


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