Beyond High School: The Cost of College for Divorced Parents

Divorce often brings about its fair share of financial challenges, and the hidden cost of college expenses only adds to the burden. As parents navigate the complexities of child support laws in Missouri, they must also consider the additional financial obligations that come with supporting their child's college education. This can catch many parents off guard, as they may not have anticipated the need to financially support their child beyond high school. It is crucial that parents know their rights and responsibilities under Missouri's child support laws.

Understanding Missouri Law

Under current Missouri law, child support continues past high school until age 21, as long as the child attends college or a vocational school.  In addition, parents can also be obligated to pay college expenses until the age of 21.  Pursuant to Section 452.340.5 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, for child support to remain in place and for parents to be responsible for college costs, the following requirements must be met:

The law provides exceptions to the requirements above, including but not limited to a physical disability or other diagnosed health problem. In addition, the court will consider other circumstances that may justify a delay in starting school by October 1 after graduation or require a child to take a semester off.   

If a child fails to meet the requirements above, the parent paying child support will need to file the appropriate documents with the court to initiate the court process to terminate child support.

 If the child is enrolled in an institution and meets the requirements above, the parent paying child support, or the child, may petition the court to have child support payments paid directly to the child instead of paying the other parent.

How Collaborative Divorce Can Help

While the court in contested cases can only obligate parents to pay for certain expenses until age 21, many parents agree as part of their divorce judgment to pay for expenses past age 21 and to include these agreements as part of their settlement agreement. For example, both parents will pay 50% of college expenses for eight semesters or even later if the parents wish to pay for graduate school or medical school.

Through the collaborative divorce process, parents can reach creative agreements for post-high school expenses that will work for everyone. In a traditional divorce case, the attorneys and judge often do not have the capacity or ability to explore creative options. With the support of the financial professional and the cooperative dynamic of the entire collaborative divorce team, parents can explore options for dividing property or setting aside assets to capture the most available funds for the entire family.  

Consulting with a collaborative divorce attorney will ensure that you are educated not only about the law, but about your options for working through the divorce process.

How do you want to get divorced? An overview of your process options

You’ve made the decision to divorce, Now you need to consider the options for moving forward.  You may not be aware that most cases never go to court, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

Here are some different processes to consider:

  1. Kitchen Table. The couple negotiates all of the issues directly before filing with the court. One spouse may obtain a lawyer to file with the court or you may file on your own. This option works best for couples with low conflict, where both spouses fully understand the finances and property, and where there is a high level of trust.

Advantages: Quick and inexpensive

Disadvantages: No professional advice from an attorney (or only one spouse obtains professional advice) of legal rights and options; no formal method of information gathering (“discovery”) to ensure your spouse is being honest with financial information

  1. Mediation. The couple has a series of meetings with a trained mediator (usually a family law attorney) who does not represent either of you to negotiate and reach agreements. The mediator can provide legal information to facilitate negotiations, help generate options, draft the separation agreement, and, where appropriate, the parenting plan. Both spouses are advised, but not required, to consult with their own attorneys during the process. This option is best suited for couples who have disagreements but who are committed to resolving them outside of court and need the assistance of an unbiased neutral to help reach agreements.

Advantages: No court involvement; structured negotiation process; couple has control over all decisions

Disadvantages: More costly than kitchen table; a spouse that is controlling or abusive may take advantage of the other spouse during the process (i.e., there is an imbalance of power); no formal method of discovery

  1. Litigation. One spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage in court. Both spouses hire attorneys. The attorneys do most of the heavy lifting in this option by preparing the case and arguments, engaging in settlement negotiations, and handling any court appearances. This option is most suited for couples who have very low trust and no interest in resolving issues out of court. Discovery is routinely used to gain financial information. If no agreement is reached, the judge makes the final decision after a trial. 

Advantages: Formal discovery is available, e.g, subpoenas, depositions; temporary orders may be obtained (e.g., restraining orders, child support, and maintenance); disclosure is mandatory and under oath

Disadvantages: Often the most expensive option; adversarial couples become more so, lessening the chance of a successful co-parenting relationship; the judge, who doesn’t know you or your family, makes all of the decisions for you, so you have no control over the outcome; deadlines and scheduling are based on the court’s schedule, not yours

  1. Collaborative Practice. The couple and collaborative professionals have a series of meetings in a non-adversarial setting. Attorneys trained in Collaborative Law represent each spouse. The couple has the opportunity in this option of retaining other professionals trained in Collaborative Practice to assist in the process, including a mental health professional, financial professional, and a child specialist. This process addresses the legal, financial, and emotional issues of the divorce. The entire team signs agreements to work collaboratively with each other to problem solve, gather information, and explore options.  All agreements are reached before being processed through the court. This option is most suited for couples who are interested in resolving their issues outside of court in a non-adversarial way and may be interested in the benefits of having trained mental health and financial professionals.

Advantages: Uses a team approach to ensure that everyone is working towards resolving the issues in a non-adversarial, respectful manner; couple has the advice of a team of professionals to cover all aspects of divorce: legal, financial, and emotional; couple is in control of the outcome of their process; no court involvement; couple learns strategies in communicating and continuing their post-divorce relationship

Disadvantages: If an agreement cannot be reached (very rare), the couple has to retain two new attorneys and incur more legal fees; may incur higher costs depending on how many professionals are involved; if one spouse is not negotiating in good faith, the process is compromised; no formal method of discovery

Whichever process you chose for your divorce, make sure you are educated and informed about all of the options.

Why should I consider divorce using the Collaborative Process?

The Collaborative Process is an approach to divorce that emphasizes cooperation and negotiation between spouses, with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. It is a forward-focused alternative to traditional litigation that can provide a more amicable and efficient approach to resolving divorce-related issues.

Here are some key points about the Collaborative Process in Missouri:

  1. Voluntary Participation: Both spouses must willingly choose to participate in the Collaborative Process. It requires a commitment from both parties to work together honestly and respectfully to find solutions.
  2. Collaborative Team: Each spouse has their own collaboratively trained attorney who will guide them through the process. Other professionals, such as divorce coaches (mental health professionals), child specialists, and financial experts may be involved to provide specialized support and expertise.
  3. Agreement to Settle Out of Court: The Collaborative Process aims to settle all issues out of court. The spouses and their attorneys sign an agreement stating that they will not resort to litigation. If either spouse decides to pursue litigation, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw from the case, and new attorneys will need to be retained.
  4. Open Communication: The Collaborative Process encourages open and transparent communication between spouses. This allows for a better understanding of each other's needs, concerns, and interests, facilitating the negotiation of a mutually beneficial settlement.
  5. Focus on Interests and Needs: Instead of positional bargaining, the Collaborative Process aims to identify the underlying interests and needs of each spouse. By focusing on common goals, creative solutions can be explored to meet the needs of both spouses and their children.
  6. Privacy and Confidentiality: The Collaborative Process offers greater privacy compared to traditional litigation. The discussions and negotiations that take place within the collaborative team are confidential, promoting a safe environment for open and honest communication.
  7. Court Approval: Once the spouses reach a settlement agreement, it must be submitted to the court for approval. The court will review the agreement to ensure it is fair and in the best interests of any children involved. When approved by the judge, the agreement becomes legally binding.

It's important to note that while the Collaborative Process can be a beneficial option for many couples, it may not be suitable for all situations, especially if there are significant power imbalances, concerns about domestic violence, or an inability to cooperate. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine if the Collaborative Process is the right choice for your circumstances.

Breaking Apart While Pulling in the Same Direction

When most people think of divorce, what come to mind are words like “divisive,” “conflict,” “adversarial,” “battle,” and other terms describing anger, unhappiness, and disappointment. So how can a divorce be “collaborative,” and why is that a good thing?

A couple going through divorce started their marriage walking down the aisle together, planning a life together, and raising children together. Even when problems arose, the couple may, together, have sought the assistance of a marriage counselor or spiritual advisor.

Yet, if the couple decides the marriage has no future and they need to separate, the usual path is to hire attorneys and take what was a joint venture onto the battlefield where they will begin lobbing grenades at each other trying to achieve an all-out victory or, at best, a truce.

What’s wrong with this picture?

For starters, if the divorce war rages on, the children are inevitably caught in the crossfire, making everyone in the family miserable. Parents have an obligation to work together for the kids’ benefit in a partnership that doesn’t end when the children graduate college but, rather, that lasts a lifetime. Beyond that, each spouse’s life will be weighed down by continued sniping, which can lead to bitterness and endless resentment.

The Collaborative Divorce Process offers a radically different approach to divorce. It lets a divorcing couple focus on their future rather than on the sins of the past. It invites a couple to work together towards common goals, such as financial independence, a sound co-parenting relationship, and mutual respect in their post-divorce lives. It recognizes that divorce litigation rarely produces a clear winner and a clear loser but, rather, ends in a Pyrrhic victory, draining financial and emotional resources that take years to replenish.

In a collaborative divorce, spouses are supported by their own lawyers as well as by unaligned mental health and financial professionals, each of whom brings a different set of skills to the table. The lawyers, rather than focusing on strategic maneuvering, collaborating to help their clients work together to benefit the entire family.

Couples who choose the collaborative divorce process recognize that preserving their family’s well-being will require being attentive to the needs of all members of the family, including their soon-to-be ex-spouse. That doesn’t mean giving in; it does mean being willing to listen, and, in turn, being heard.

Judges have limited tools and limited time as they deal with an endless flow of divorce matters. Couples using the collaborative divorce process avoid the standardized approach of the courthouse. By rejecting a war and, instead, embracing a cooperative approach, they are much more likely to emerge well-prepared for their post-divorce lives.

Divorce represents both an end and a beginning. The collaborative divorce process invites couples to keep their eyes on the road ahead to create a better future for themselves and for their children.

Maximizing Your Property Division Agreement Through the Collaborative Divorce Process

Divorce can be a complicated and emotionally draining process, especially when it comes to dividing assets. Property division can quickly become a contentious issue, with both parties fighting tooth and nail to get what they believe is rightfully theirs. However, there is a better way to handle property division during a divorce. Collaborative divorce is a process that allows both parties to work together and come up with a mutually beneficial agreement. This approach can save time, money, and emotional stress for everyone involved. Through the collaborative process, you can maximize your property division agreement and ensure that both parties walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome.

What is Property Division and Why is it Important?

When a couple decides to divorce, one of the most important issues is the division of their assets and debts ("property division"). The property can include real estate, personal property, financial assets, and retirement benefits. It is important to note that not all property is subject to division, and the laws governing property division vary from state to state or based on other rules. For example, company stock owned by an employee-spouse may not be transferrable to the non-employee spouse.

Property division is important because it can impact the financial well-being of both parties after the divorce. The division of property can also be emotionally charged, as each party may have a strong attachment to certain assets. Property division can also have implications for child custody and support, as the division of property can impact each party's ability to provide for their children.

The Traditional Approach to Property Division During Divorce

Traditionally, property division during a divorce has been a contentious and adversarial process. Each party hires their own attorney, and each attorney advocates for their client's interests. The parties may also hire experts, such as appraisers or accountants, to help determine the value of the property.

The traditional approach to property division can be time-consuming and expensive. The parties may spend months or even years fighting over their property in court, which can take a toll on their emotional and financial well-being. Additionally, the traditional approach can be unpredictable, as the outcome is ultimately determined by a judge who may not be familiar with the parties' unique circumstances.

How Collaborative Divorce Can Save Time, Money, and Emotional Stress During Property Division

Collaborative divorce is a process that allows both parties to work together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. In collaborative, each party hires their own attorney, but the attorneys are trained in collaborative law and are committed to working together to help the parties reach an agreement. Additionally, the parties may also hire experts, such as financial planners or child specialists, to help them make informed decisions.

Collaborative divorce often saves time, money, and emotional stress because it allows the parties to avoid the adversarial and time-consuming process of traditional litigation. The parties work together to identify their goals and interests and then brainstorm ways to meet those goals, rather then the approach the court often applies which is splitting all assets 50-50. Collaborative divorce is particularly beneficial in property division because the parties can work together to determine the value of the property and identify creative solutions for dividing it.

Steps for Dividing Property in Collaborative Divorce

The parties first meet with their attorneys and identify their goals and interests. The parties then work together to identify their assets and debts and gather information about their value.

Once the parties have gathered all the necessary information, with the help of the financial neutral, they work together with the professional team to brainstorm options for dividing the property. The parties are able to explore unique solutions that work for them in attempt to meet everyone's goals, such as dividing certain assets or debts, selling certain assets and dividing the proceeds, or trading assets of equal value. The financial neutral on the team is able to speak to tax implications of dividing or trading certain assets, providing a helpful perspective during these meetings.

Once the parties have agreed on a property division agreement, the attorneys draft a formal agreement that is signed by both parties. The agreement is then submitted to the court for approval.

After the Judgment is entered, the team helps ensure that all property is properly divided and assist in transfers titles on real property and motor vehicles.

Tips for Maximizing Your Property Division Agreement Through Collaborative Divorce

If you are considering collaborative divorce for property division during your divorce, there are several tips that can help you maximize your agreement:

  1. Be open-minded: collaborative divorce involves working together to find creative solutions. Be willing to consider options that may be outside of your initial preferences.
  2. Be honest: collaborative divorce requires open and honest communication. Be upfront about your goals and interests, and be willing to listen to the other party's goals and interests.
  3. Be patient: collaborative divorce can take time, but the end result can be worth it. Be patient and trust the process.
  4. Work with experienced professionals: collaborative divorce requires attorneys and other professionals who are trained in the collaborative process. Work with professionals who have experience in collaborative divorce and are committed to helping you reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
  5. Keep the focus on the future: collaborative divorce is about finding solutions that work for both parties. Keep the focus on the future and what will be best for you and your family after the divorce.

Common Misconceptions About Collaborative Divorce and Property Division

One misconception is that collaborative divorce is only for amicable divorces. In reality, collaborative divorce can be beneficial in any divorce situation, including those involving contentious property division issues, as long as parties are committed to fully disclosing all financial information requested and being respectful. Even in contested cases, most all financial information is disclosed through formal and informal discover in a divorce case.

Another misconception is that collaborative divorce is not effective in complex property division cases. In reality, collaborative divorce can be extremely effective in the most complex property division cases, as long as the parties are committed to working together to find creative solutions.

Finally, some people believe that collaborative divorce is more expensive than traditional litigation. In reality, collaborative divorce can be more cost-effective than traditional litigation, as it can help the parties avoid costly court battles and lengthy court proceedings.

Next Steps for Utilizing Collaborative Divorce in Your Divorce Proceedings

Property division can quickly become a contentious issue, with both parties fighting tooth and nail to get what they believe is rightfully theirs. However, there is a better way to handle property division during a divorce. Collaborative divorce is a process that allows both parties to work together and come up with a mutually beneficial agreement. This approach can save time, money, and emotional stress for everyone involved.

If you are considering collaborative divorce, the first step is to find an attorney who is trained in collaborative. Your attorney can help you understand the collaborative divorce process and can help you identify your goals and interests. From there, you can work together with your attorney and the other party to identify creative solutions for dividing your property.

Collaborative divorce can be a powerful tool for maximizing your property division agreement and ensuring that both parties walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome. By working together, you can avoid the adversarial and time-consuming process of traditional litigation and instead focus on finding solutions that work for everyone involved.

St. Louis County Missouri Custody Orders and COVID-19

In this uncertain time, rather than relying on rumor, you may want to take a look at Saint Louis County Department of Public Health order that will go in place in St. Louis County on Monday, for a 30-day period.  Here is the link:  St. Louis County Custody Order and COVID-19 Information

Some people have wondered whether this means they should not comply with court orders regarding transferring custody of their children between homes.   While this is new territory for all of us,  at this point, I interpret the provision that defines as an essential activity “necessary care for a dependent in the person’s legal custody, including acts essential for a parent with legal custody to transfer the physical custody of a child” as allowing the transportation of children for purposes that are required to comply with court orders.  I think the starting assumption then is that parents should continue to comply with their custody orders. 

Having said the above, the course of action is likely different if a parent, child or family member is ill or has exposure to the virus which would warrant quarantine.  The right thing to do in that situation may depend on your particular circumstances.  While the court may be available to resolve conflicts in this regard, the best course of action is to rely on your health care professionals.  

Now more than ever this is a time for co-parents to communicate.  Work to be on the same page with respect to activities your children are or not allowed to engage in, cleanliness and disinfecting protocols.  Cooperate to allow you each to juggle your work and home responsibilities.  Keep each other advised of all health issues in each of your homes and consider how items that travel between the homes should be sanitized.  Keep each other well advised of any possible exposure by anyone in either of your homes or of your child.  Should the need to quarantine a child, parent or other family members, avoid any impulse to assess blame, quarantine as required pursuant to public health and medical advice and guidelines, and make good use of video chats to keep everyone connected. 

We will each need to figure out how to navigate this unique territory according to our own circumstances.  If you use good common sense, follow public health and medical guidelines, and most importantly, keep the focus on taking care of one another and of your children, perhaps there will be a silver lining of strengthening your co-parent relationship. 

Sue Amato is a collaboratively trained family law attorney and she is available to discuss your Missouri divorce options. Sue can be reached at (314) 727-7122.


Collaborative Divorce and Mental Health — A Lawyer’s Perspective

Any marriage can fail, but throw mental illness into the mix of marital stressors, and the risk of marital failure increases. Problems such as depression and alcohol addiction can create instability in the home that makes sustaining the marriage difficult or impossible.

Traditional Divorce

The traditional divorce process, which is based upon rights and obligations as established through laws, often has a blind spot when it comes to dealing with mental health. Rather than focusing on treatment and accommodation of the illness, the court-based process often pits spouses against each other, with each trying to demonstrate how the other is at fault, and with the children too frequently caught in the crossfire.

Collaborative Divorce and Mental Health

The collaborative divorce process recognizes that going through a divorce is akin to doing surgery on a family. Just as a surgeon works to remove diseased tissue without damaging the surrounding organs, we, as divorce professionals, want to separate the spouses without doing any more damage to the family than is necessary to get the job done. Rather than focusing on fault, the collaborative divorce process helps the divorcing couple focus on their needs and those of their children. The professional team, including lawyers, a financial professional, and a mental health professional, helps the couple focus their energies on problem-solving, instead of finger-pointing. If a spouse suffers from mental illness, the mental health professional can meet individually with that spouse to find out about the problem, and can either work directly with the person’s therapist to better understand the mental health issues, or refer the person to a therapist or psychiatrist who has the tools to assist the patient and, in so doing, improve the life of the family post-divorce. That information is then conveyed to the other professional team members, who can take it into account along with financial and other information in assisting their clients to fashion a workable settlement. This shift from blame to healing involves the lawyers, who, rather than digging up dirt, can use their experience, intelligence, and creativity to help the couple craft solutions to the problems posed by dividing the household. While we focus on protecting the interests of our own clients, we also keep our attention on the health of the family. Our advocacy includes helping our clients understand how different settlement options may benefit the children, which, in turn, benefits the parents. Mental illness can be frightening and often presents substantial challenges to a family. Employing a problem-solving approach to mental illness can soften the worst effects of divorce and can hasten the healing that follows the trauma of divorce.

Alan Freed is an experienced mediator and collaborative law professional practicing in St. Louis, Missouri.  Alan works hard to help his clients divorce with the least amount of trauma to the family as possible. Reach out to Alan to discuss your divorce options and how you and your spouse can divorce amicably.

Alan can be reached by phone at (314) 244-3653, by email at af****@pc********.com, or visit his website at .

How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

It’s time to decide whether your child will get their own cell phone.  Whether you are going through a divorce, divorced, or never married, Collaborative Practice offers some valuable lessons for making this and other important parenting decisions.

There is a real need for certain limitations on your child’s use of their cell phone, to keep their life on track.  Agree on specified times for your child to use their cell phone.  Designate times your child’s cell phone needs to be turned off.  Why, when, and how, will your child’s cell phone use be limited, as a means of discipline?  Know the rules and cell phone policy of your child’s school and insist they be followed. 

Know the password to your child’s cell phone.  Any “app” on your child’s cell phone should be downloaded by you.  Make sure you know every contact in your child’s cell phone.  Teach your child not to share their phone number with anyone they don’t know.

Teach your child to let you know as soon as they receive a suspicious or alarming call or text message.  Teach your child to let you know as soon as they are being harassed or bullied by someone on their cell phone.  Teach your child not to answer or return calls or text messages from someone they don’t know.

Of course these suggestions depend on the age of your child, as well as a variety of other factors.  Every child is different.  Each family has their own ideas for determining what concerns are most important for them.  In Collaborative Practice, the parties and their Collaborative Professionals focus all of their energy and resources on creative problem solving.  In Collaborative Practice, workable options are found.  Collaborative Practice minimizes hostility, by emphasizing understanding and cooperation.

Collaborative Practice is for people who want respectful, civilized resolutions of the issues in their case.  Collaborative Practice is for people who want to protect their children from the harm associated with conflict and contentious litigation.  Collaborative Practice is likely to work for you, if:

  1. You want to put the needs of your children first.
  2. You want to communicate respectfully with your co-parent.
  3. You believe it is important to plan for the future rather than remain stuck in the past.

Kids are naturally impulsive and not great decision makers.  Their brains are still developing until approximately age twenty-five (25), in the areas of decision making, sexuality, emotional, and impulse control.  You know your child better than anyone else.  When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance from the professionals who know about such matters.  Follow the recommendations of your healthcare providers and educational professionals.

Gary is an attorney and former member of CFLA.

Mind Your FBI’s: Guidelines for Making Coparenting Decisions During Divorce

Making coparenting decisions during a divorce can be clouded by anger, sadness, and sheer exhaustion. Consider focusing on the following three themes from the research on divorce, to assist you when making coparenting decisions. A simple acronym to use is FBI, as it is easy to remember.

F is for Forward Motion

Coparenting decisions should move your family forward. For example, physically separate as soon as is feasible. This helps children adjust to their “new normal”, minimizes their fears about the future, and lets them know they will be taken care of even if you are not together. Maintaining forward motion can be a difficult concept. Consider the following example. Coparents decided to continue their Taco Tuesday tradition after their separation – having tacos together every Tuesday in what had been the family home. Their 8-year-old daughter loved it. When asked how she would feel if Dad’s new girlfriend joined them, she was strongly opposed. Taco Tuesday had kept the hope alive that her parents would reunite. It also insured that she would not be willing to form a relationship with a parent’s new significant other. A choice that may seem to be a good idea on the surface, may not be when you consider the current and future consequences from a child’s perspective.

B is for Boundaries

Coparenting boundaries are very different from spousal boundaries. The parenting agreement you made when you were together no longer applies. Your spouse no longer needs to clear daily parenting decisions with you. And you no longer need to explain yours, unless you wish to. Your coparenting relationship can be viewed as a business relationship. Your job is to work together to make major decisions to insure your children have the resources necessary to become successful adults. When communicating with your coparent, remember to give them the same respect and privacy you would give your coworkers. Setting new and healthy boundaries can be the hardest part of moving from a spousal to a coparenting relationship.

I is for avoiding Intense, Chronic Conflict

When coparents engage in conflict, children can feel stuck in the middle of situations they do not fully understand. Children may feel they cannot reach out to parents for support fearing it will ignite more conflict. Children may find it easier or safer to appease parents – often telling them different things – than to get their needs met. This can lead to chronic anxiety, as well as other behavioral and emotional issues throughout their life. So, it is important to choose your battles wisely. A fight “to the death” on principle, is more likely to damage your children than help them in the long run. Let compromise be your mantra. Taking the “high road” will always serve you well.

So, remember your FBI’s. A recent study compared children from divorced families with good coparenting to children whose parents remained together. There were no significant differences between them. Your marriage may not have succeeded, but you can be an amazing coparent.

About the author:

Carol Love is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been a Domestic Relations Counselor at the St. Louis County Family Court, and the Clinical Director of Kids In The Middle, a local agency dedicated to assisting families deal with separation and divorce. Carol is currently in private practice and works with coparents and children to minimize the negative impact of separation and divorce  on families, and help them thrive in the future.

If you want to learn more about your divorce options and coparenting decisions, then give her a call. She can be reached at 314.303.9792, or email her at ca********@sb*******.net

Social Security Retirement Benefits and Divorce

When considering ending a marriage, many who are close to or at retirement age are concerned about their ability to continue to meet their needs following divorce.   “What sources of income will I have?” is a common concern.  Where the spouses are retired and no longer employed, an award of spousal support may not be realistic or appropriate.  The divorce judgment will divide the former spouses’ interests in any pension plans, IRAs, deferred compensation and other retirement accounts.  But the divorce court does not divide the parties’ respective interests in his or her Social Security Retirement Benefits.  What happens to these?  This is particular of concern to those individuals who, by agreement during the marriage, stayed at home to raise a family and did not pursue a career while his or her former spouse worked.   Or, it may be a concern where there is a substantial difference in the amount each spouse earned during the marriage.  The fact that the divorce judgment does not award Social Security Retirement Benefits does not mean a former spouse may not receive benefits based on his or her former spouses’ record.  In fact, under certain circumstances, a former spouse may be able to receive benefits based on his or her former spouse’s earnings record.  

If you are wondering if you may be able to receive benefits based on your former spouse’s record, consider the following.  If you meet the requirements listed below, you may be able to receive Social Security Retirement Benefits based on your former spouse’s record:

  1. You are divorced.
  2. The duration of your marriage to your former spouse was ten years or longer.
  3. You are age 62 or older.
  4. You have not remarried (although there may be an exception to this requirement if the later marriage is dissolved, annulled, or ends upon the death of your spouse).
  5. Your former spouse must be entitled to receive the benefits based on his or her own record.

If you are at or close to retirement age and are in the midst of or considering divorce, you should explore the possibility that you may be entitled to receive Social Security Retirement Benefits based on your former, or soon to be former, spouse’s record.  You should discuss this with your attorney.  You should also contact your local Social Security office to get information regarding your benefit and take the necessary steps to obtain information regarding your spouse’s benefit so that following divorce you have the knowledge to make informed decisions.

About the author:

Mary Niemira is an experienced family law attorney who is committed to guiding her clients through the legal process in a respectful way.

If you want to learn more about your divorce process options, give her a call.  She can be reached at 314.854.8710, or email her at me*@ca**************.com