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Social Security and the timing of a divorce

While the divorce of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck may be news due to their celebrity status, there are lessons that many people can take from their case. For instance, the couple is planning to divorce just before their 10th anniversary. Although it is unlikely to be much of a factor for them, waiting to dissolve a marriage until after reaching that milestone could enable one or both parties to claim additional Social Security benefits.

According to reports, Affleck will have the larger Social Security benefit when he reaches the full retirement age of 67. However, if he were to pass away first, his soon-to-be former wife would likely have been entitled to his full benefit even if she elected to take her benefits early. It is also possible that she could have filed a restricted claim, which would have entitled her to 50 percent of her ex-spouse's benefits while deferring her own benefit to age 70.

While there are many different issues that an individual must consider when getting a divorce, the impact of the process on future retirement benefits should not be overlooked. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to delay a divorce or to take Social Security into account during the negotiations of a settlement agreement.

Those who are going through a divorce may wish to consult with an attorney before agreeing to any type of settlement. An attorney may be able to assist an individual in negotiating an equitable share of marital property, which generally includes retirement and 401(k) plans. Whether through informal negotiations or a formal trial, legal counsel may also be able to help an individual win alimony and child custody rights as part of a divorce settlement.

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