There are so many financial issues to think about when you divorce that Social Security benefits are often overlooked. However, as we've discussed here before, people in their 50s and much older are increasingly choosing to end their marriages and live their remaining decades as single people. Therefore, these are important benefits to consider if you're in your pre-retirement or retirement years.

When Are Divorced People Entitled to Spousal Social Security Benefits?

In addition to the benefits that you are entitled to for your decades of work, you may be entitled to spousal benefits based on your husband or wife's earnings, even if you are divorced. Divorced spouses are entitled to spousal Social Security benefits based on their ex's work history. This holds true as long as the marriage lasted for at least a decade, they are unmarried when they claim them, they are at least 62 years old, and the benefits they would receive based on their own work would be smaller than those of their ex-spouse's.

Even if your ex-spouse is eligible to receive his or her benefits but has chosen not to claim them, you can still receive spousal benefits as long as you have been divorced for two or more years and meet the requirements noted above. However, if you are still working, some of your own Social Security benefits may be withheld until later. Collecting spousal benefits won't reduce the amount of benefits to which you're entitled based on your own work record.

Maximizing Your Spousal Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits can help pad your retirement income if you already have retirement savings and investments to live on. For some people, however, they are nearly their sole source of income in their later years. Next year, the average monthly Social Security benefit is expected to be $1,360. There are strategies for maximizing the benefits you receive, both based on your own work history and that of your current or former spouse.

If you have questions about collecting spousal Social Security benefits, whether you and your spouse are considering divorce or have been divorced for many years, your family law attorney as well as a trusted financial advisor can provide advice and guidance. You deserve to maximize the benefits to which you're entitled and make the most of your retirement years.