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How Divorce Affects Retirement & Social Security Accounts July 24, 2019

Central Whidbey Island, Island
How Divorce Affects Retirement & Social Security Accounts, Central Whidbey Island, Washington

It's no secret that divorce can come with complex emotions and challenging legal issues to make sense of. But for most couples, financial concerns are one of the primary focuses of the divorce process, and for older couples, these concerns often include retirement funds and Social Security benefits. Below, you will find an overview of what family laws say about retirement and Social Security in a divorce.

Retirement Accounts

The money put in 401(k)s and IRAs during a marriage is considered marital property. As such, it is typically divided in a divorce. Unless the couple has a prenuptial agreement in place that states otherwise, each spouse has a legal right to part of the balances in these accounts.

Family laws do not make specific recommendations for how the funds are to be divided, so the percentage each spouse receives is ultimately left up to the divorcing couple. If one spouse entered the marriage having already put money into their retirement accounts, they will likely request a higher percentage of the funds.

Social Security Benefits

family lawIf an individual gets divorced after a marriage that lasted at least 10 years, they are entitled to a portion of their former spouse's Social Security benefits. As long as the individual starts receiving benefits at the full retirement age of 66, they will receive one half of their ex's full retirement benefits.

If both former spouses qualify for Social Security, but one person receives a lower benefit amount, the spouse with the lower benefit will receive the same amount as their ex. Bear in mind that if you remarry, you typically cannot continue to receive a portion of an ex's Social Security.


The matter of retirement accounts and Social Security benefits can be a tricky area to navigate. Let an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process. McPherson & McPherson Attorneys at Law, have been offering legal representation to the Island County, WA, area since 1997. In addition to family law cases, they offer legal services and support in will and estate planning, probate, and landlord-tenant issues. Call (360) 678-4407 or visit them online to schedule a consultation today.

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