Do you have to stay married if you don’t have retirement savings?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2022 | Family Law

It is normal for people to depend on their spouses financially, especially if the higher-earning spouse is in a demanding career like medicine. One spouse stays home to raise the children or doesn’t pursue an intense career so that they can support the other spouse in their career aspirations. The entire household benefits from that sacrifice.

Typically, the spouse who works the better-paying job will likely be the one that provides certain financial support for the family, including retirement benefits through their employer. If you don’t have retirement savings in your own name, do you need to remain married so that you can retire as planned?

You can share retirement savings

While the retirement account may be only in one spouse’s name, the courts will usually treat it as marital or shared property. Only in rare situations, typically involving some kind of written agreement between spouses, will the courts treat the entire balance of someone’s retirement savings as separate property that they will not divide.

Even if you have never made a direct contribution to the retirement account, a family law judge could order the division of those savings or at least grant you other property from the marriage that has similar value to your fair share of the retirement savings.

You may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits

If you have not worked in years or only ever worked low-paying, part-time jobs, you may not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits on your own, or the benefits you qualify for could be incredibly low. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does have special rules for divorced couples.

You can potentially claim Social Security retirement benefits based on what your spouse earned during their career. You can either make a claim against their benefits because you don’t qualify at all on your own or make a claim for benefits that you accrued in your own name and supplemental benefits based on what your spouse earned.

No one should have to remain trapped in a miserable marriage because they otherwise could never retire. Learning more about the resources available to you can help you prepare to file for divorce when you do not have your own retirement savings.

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