Legal Professionals of Hirsch & Ehlenberger

How can a Virginia divorce affect benefits like Medicare?

On Behalf of | Dec 20, 2023 | Divorce

Someone who is preparing for divorce later in life will have a lot of questions. The longer a marriage lasts, the more shared resources people need to divide when they divorce. One spouse may worry that their share of the marital estate will not be enough to maintain their standard of living.

Especially when people are close to retirement age, divorce can have numerous financial and practical implications. For example, spouses will often divide retirement savings or pension funds, which means that each spouse will have less than they expected to fund their retirement. There can also be concerns about certain benefits, including Medicare and Social Security retirement benefits.

Long-term marriages lead to post-divorce eligibility

If one spouse stops working to raise children or maintain the family home, they may go decades without gainful employment. A stay-at-home parent or spouse likely is not eligible for Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare Part A coverage based on their personal work history. They rely on the employment of their spouse to qualify for benefits.

Thankfully, government policies about employment-related retirement benefits extend protection to dependent spouses even after a divorce. Provided that the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the wage-earning spouse qualifies, the dependent spouse can qualify too. They will retain their eligibility for Medicare Part A based on their spouse’s employment even after the divorce. The same is true of Social Security retirement benefits.

So long as the marriage lasted at least a decade, the dependent or lower-earning spouse can obtain retirement benefits based on their spouse’s employment history. They can either make a claim based solely on a spouse’s work or supplement their own benefits with the higher-value benefits acquired by a spouse who earned more and worked longer. Having a spouse seek Social Security retirement benefits after a divorce does not diminish what the working spouse receives.

When people understand what happens to key benefits during a divorce, they may feel less anxious about the upcoming end of a marriage. Discussing financial needs and concerns with an attorney can help people plan to achieve economic stability after a Virginia divorce.


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