When older people go through the divorce process, the focus of negotiations is usually on the division of financial assets and real property. The division of retirement assets may be a very important topic for divorcing spouses that are nearing retirement age. In addition to splitting up the retirement savings and investments, divorcing spouses may want to determine how their Social Security benefits will be affected.
The goal of the Social Security program is to replace about 40 percent of a person's preretirement income. If a person did not work during their marriage or earned significantly less money than their spouse, they may not be entitled to very much Social Security income. However, a divorced person may claim Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse's work records as long as certain conditions are met.
To claim Social Security benefits based on the work record of an ex-spouse, a retired person much be at least 62 years old and unmarried. The retired person's marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, and the ex-spouse must also be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. A retired person can only claim Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse's work record if the retired person's own work record would not result in higher benefits.
A person who is going through a divorce may have many assets to divide. Investment accounts, employment-based retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and real estate must all be divided in different ways. An attorney can often help a client locate all marital assets and then negotiate a fair settlement.