There have been numerous reports that more and more older couples around the country, including in Ohio, are getting divorced. For these couples, the fate of their Social Security benefits could be an important issue to be dealt with in the collaborative divorce process. Failure to consider whether one spouse may receive a portion of the other spouse's Social Security benefits could prove costly.

There are certain basic criteria that have to be met in order for one spouse to be able to receive a portion (up to 50 percent) of the other spouse's benefits. The party seeking these benefits must be at least 62 years old, and the couple had to have been married for at least 10 years prior to the divorce. Further, the party typically cannot be remarried, and the spouse whose benefits are being sought must be eligible for those benefits. Another requirement is that the spouse seeking benefits cannot be entitled to a higher amount themselves, based on his or her own work history.

Of course, there are several other conditions regarding remarriage and eligibility of the ex-spouse whose benefits are sought. Also, once it is determined that one spouse is entitled to a portion of the ex-spouse's Social Security benefits, there are formulas employed by the Social Security Administration to determine the amount that will be received. Anyone wanting to know whether they qualify for benefits and how much those benefits will be may want to contact their local Social Security office.

If a divorcing couple has already met, or will meet, these criteria around the time of the divorce being final, it may be a good idea to include Social Security benefits in the divorce agreement. Since the goal of the collaborative divorce process in Ohio is to help a willing couple work together to achieve a fair and equitable settlement, it only makes sense to include a discussion of these benefits. Social Security benefits can be confusing, and having advice and assistance in navigating the system may help ensure that all available benefits are accounted for.

Source: stamfordadvocate.com, "Divorce could play role in Social Security benefits," Julie Jason, Feb. 22, 2013