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Affleck and Garner divorce raises Social Security questions

Virginia residents may have heard or read about the speculation about a possible rift between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. The two high-profile stars have not commented on the matter, but that has not stopped Hollywood gossip columnists from putting forward theories about why the couple may be thinking about a divorce and how their estimated $150 million in assets could be divided. However, some family law observers are paying more attention to the timing of the possible divorce.

If they do not pursue the divorce, Affleck and Garner will have been married for 10 years on June 29. This is an emotional milestone for all married couples, but it also has a number of practical benefits. Spouses who have been married for 10 years or more may choose to begin receiving their Social Security benefits before they reach the full retirement age, and the decision of one spouse to take this option will not affect the amount of benefits paid to the other.

There are additional Social Security advantages if one spouse dies after 10 or more years of marriage. In this situation, the surviving spouse can choose to receive the benefits that would have gone to their husband or wife. This is true even if the surviving spouse is already receiving reduced benefits because they have chosen to not wait until they reach the full retirement age.

Divorcing couples sometimes fail to take their long-term needs into consideration as they focus on matters such as property division and spousal support. Experienced family law attorneys will likely understand this, and they may recommend that retirement plans and Social Security benefits feature prominently in divorce negotiations.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse", accessed on June 6, 2015

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