Over the years, I have helped many of my clients, friends and acquaintances receive social security benefits from a divorced spouse they had no idea they were entitled to (this applies to a present spouse as well). Here is what you need to know–that social security isn’t going to necessarily tell you—unless you ask.

If you were married for 10 years or longer, you have a choice of receiving benefits under your own work record, or one-half the benefit under the work record of your former spouse, even if your former spouse has remarried. The benefit under your former spouse’s work record may be higher than your own.

If you receive benefits under your former spouse’s work record, it has no effect on the benefits your former spouse or his/her new spouse receives.

If you were born before January 2, 1954 and have already reached your full social security retirement age, you can receive benefits under your ex-spouse’s record, while delaying and growing your own social security benefit. You can then switch over to your own benefit at a much higher amount later on.

If your former spouse is deceased, you may be entitled to social security survivor benefits.

What do you have to lose? Social security benefits are a substantial retirement benefit. You (and your former spouse) have undoubtedly paid significant social security taxes over the years. Get what your entitled to. Make an appointment without delay and find out your rights. Ask questions. You have a right to know.

Good for you.  That is the first positive sign that you and your spouse may be able to resolve all of your divorce issues amicably.

There are MANY ways to resolve your divorce issues amicably, and at Ryan Faenza Carey we can do all forms of dispute resolution—mediation, collaborative law, conciliation, arbitration, settlement with counsel, and litigation (if all else fails).  Four of our seven attorneys are certified in mediation. 

At Ryan Faenza Careyall efforts are focused on reaching an agreement, regardless of the method used.  We resolve 98% of our cases and have over 100 years of combined experience doing so.   

Call us today.  Speak with one of our attorneys.  Find out if you are a candidate for mediation or some other form of dispute resolution and make an appointment to begin. 

Divorce and other breakups are tough, especially when there are children involved.  For children, there is grief, fear, loss, sadness and confusion.  Want to do right by your children and make the best of a difficult situation?

  • Shield and protect your children from adult matters such as finances, division of property or who is at fault in the breakup.  Your children deserve to have a happy and healthy childhood; an important part of that is their relationship with their parents. Your friends, family, therapist or other adults should be your sounding board, not your children. 
  • Reality check!  Going through a divorce or break-up can be a long, difficult and emotionally taxing process.  Take time to take care of yourself, while realizing that this too shall pass.  Do your best not to allow the months it could take to address and resolve your divorce take away from the years you have with your child.
  • In an age-appropriate manner and notwithstanding the above, involve the children in matters that affect them to the extent that you and your co-parent agree.  Give your child a calendar so that they can see when they are at each parent’s home.  Help them choose gifts and/or cards to give to their other parent for special occasions.  Let them feel important and a part of things. 
  • Let the children know that parents are forever.  Help them understand that the adults may be ending their relationship, but not the relationship between the children and their parents.  You may not be spouses or significant others anymore, but you will always be co-parents. Do your best to have a united front with your co-parent; even with difficult matters, such as discipline.  Your child, although they may not be willing to admit it, will be comforted and reassured that you’re working together for your child’s best interest. 
  • Respect your co-parent.  Forgiveness can be powerful; blame, negativity and/or bitterness has no place in how you and your co-parent effectively raise your children.  Be cognizant of the reality that you choose this person to be your child’s parent and respect their role in your child’s life. Children can benefit from having two different, but very important, people in their life. 
  • Reassure your children.  Let them know their feelings of grief, fear, loss, sadness and confusion are normal.   Understand that you’re all working through a “new normal” and you’ll have new schedules, traditions and celebrations. If appropriate, provide an opportunity for therapeutic assistance (for yourself as well as your children).
  • Communicate with your co-parent.  Take the high road, regardless of the path your co-parent has chosen.  Rise above adult conflicts and continue to parent your children the best you can.  In tense or emotional situations, do not be reactive.  Take a deep breath and honestly assess your thoughts and potential response.  How would you want this issue to be handled if the shoe was on the other foot? How would you have handled this issue if you were an intact family? Put the children first.

We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe that children should come first; it’s imperative that children have a positive, healthy childhood regardless of their family dynamics.  Be the best you can be, your children are counting on you.     

When you’re interviewing with a divorce attorney, you should make sure that all your questions are answered to your satisfaction.  Write down your questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget them when you meet with the attorney.

Questions to ask your divorce attorney should include the following:

  • Cost.  How much do you believe my divorce will cost?   What is your hourly rate and the rate of others in the firm that might be working on my case? How will I be charged and billed? What is the amount of your retainer to begin the case?
  • Recommendations.  What is the course of action that you recommend I take and why?  What step or steps should I take now, if any, to protect myself (or my children)? Is there anything I should not do?
  • Options.  Do you offer limited assistance representation?  What should I know about mediation, collaborative law, conciliation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution?
  • Outcome.  What can I reasonably expect in terms of a range of outcomes—on property division, support, custody and parenting, health insurance, life insurance, etc. What is a realistic time frame to reach an end result?
  • Settlement v. Trial.  What is the likelihood of my case being settled by agreement without a contested trial? What is the percentage of your divorce cases that are ultimately settled by agreement? (this should be quite high) Are you prepared to try my case in Court if a settlement cannot be reached?

–     Experience.  How many years of experience do you have in representing clients in divorce and family law matters? How many clients have you represented in  divorce cases from beginning to end?

  • Approach/Philosophy.  What is your general philosophy or approach in these types of matters, and in my case in particular? (make sure you agree with his/her philosophy or approach).

You have a right to know, and should receive satisfactory answers to all of your questions.  Let your attorney know your priorities and wishes so that you can understand how to achieve your goals.  We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe our clients have a right to transparency, and to full and open lines of communication.   

Think that dividing assets in divorce is easy and anyone can do it?  Think again.  You may be risking thousands or tens of thousands of dollars if you forget to dot the “i’s” and cross the  “t’s”.  A recent Boston Globe article highlighted the Court case of former Patriots running back Mosi Tatupu. His case underscores the importance of careful and timely drafting and consistency in dividing assets in a divorce. It also illustrates how important it is to fully understand the terms of your settlement.

What Mosi Tatupu’s widow thought she was getting from her former husband’s NFL pension, and what she ultimately got, were two different things. The provisions of the parties’ divorce Separation Agreement, and the court-submitted document dividing the pension (DRO) were inconsistent. After Mosi’s death, his former wife sought to enforce terms of a DRO to divide the pension, and a federal Court in Massachusetts denied her claim.

The division of pensions and other assets in a divorce is complex and should be handled by an experienced professional.  It is essential that you know and understand your rights, as property division provisions are usually final.  Insist on having your rights explained to you and leave nothing to chance; it is unlikely at best that problems with property division can be rectified after the fact. 

We at Ryan Faenza Carey have seen first hand the difficulties and problems that arise in cases such as Mosi’s, among others.  These difficulties and problems can mean the loss of thousands or even millions of dollars down the road.  Consult with one of our experienced professionals.