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The interplay between Social Security and divorce

Entertainment fans in Pennsylvania may have heard about the potential end of the marriage between Hollywood stars Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. According to multiple sources, the couple is heading into a divorce that may involve as much as $150 million in combined assets. Since it seems that they hope to divorce before reaching their 10th wedding anniversary, they could be giving up some Social Security benefits that accrue to couples whose marriages lasted at least that long.

In the emotional upheaval divorce often causes, many couples do not realize they are forfeiting important benefits. In some cases, they simply want to get the process over with and might not care. Although it is unlikely to matter much to Affleck and Garner, less-wealthy people often count on Social Security benefits for retirement. In many cases, one of the parties to a marriage has worked for longer periods of time and has earned more money than the other. A person who was married for at least 10 years and who has not gotten remarried may be able to use the former spouse's earning history when calculating Social Security retirement benefits.

If a couple were to wait to divorce until after their 10th wedding anniversary, and the higher-earning spouse dies, the survivor may be able to access the decedent's larger benefit. This is another issue that some couples may wish to take into account.

A high-asset divorce can be an emotional process, but a family law attorney may prove to be a valuable ally for a person going through one. The issue of property division is often a contentious one in these types of proceedings, and an attorney might assist in the negotiation of a settlement agreement that covers that matter.

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