Celebrity divorce raises Social Security quaestions

Texas residents may have read media reports indicating that the Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are likely to be ending their marriage. Garner and Affleck will file for divorce just before their 10-year wedding anniversary according to the reports, and this timing has raised the eyebrows of some family law attorneys. Remaining married for at least 10 years makes sense as far as Social Security benefits are concerned, but this may not be a major consideration for movie stars with an estate worth an estimated $150 million.

A husband or wife who have been married for at least 10 years may elect to receive Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age. If one spouse opts to retire early, the decision will not impact the amount of benefits that the other will receive once full retirement age has been attained. However, these advantages are lost if the couple files for divorce before they reach their 10-year anniversary.

The 10-year milestone is also important if one spouse passes away. In this situation, the surviving spouse may choose to receive the benefits that would have been paid to their husband or wife. The surviving spouse could also file a restricted claim. This would allow them to apply for Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse’s income while their own benefits are delayed.

Family law attorneys may point out how the timing of a divorce can be significant, and they could explain the Social Security advantages of temporarily delaying this step for couples who are close to being married for 10 years. Attorneys may also explain to their clients that retirement funds such as IRA and 401(k) accounts should be taken into consideration during property division negotiations.