When a Hawaii couple comes to the conclusion that their marriage is better viewed as past history, then property division, child custody and child support seem to demand most of their attention. These issues need to be addressed and settled first, but it is important to realize that other matters will impact the former spouses as they begin their post-divorce separate lives. Hawaii is an equitable distribution state, and marital assets and debts are evaluated and divided between the two in a fair, or equitable, manner. Social security benefits may be considered as a marital asset based on the facts and circumstances of the marriage.

Retirement experts can explain that if a marriage lasted at least 10 years, an ex-spouse may be able to collect benefits based on the other spouse’s earnings record. However, the term of the union is simply a threshold requirement, and other issues such as age, marital status, entitlement to one’s own social security benefits and others come into play.

The bottom line is that for those who meet the Social Security Administration’s criteria, the ex-spouse may collect 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s monthly benefit if it exceeds what the lower-earning spouse would collect solely on his or her own earning record. This is significant for many couples who have agreed that one spouse will take on the role of raising the children and managing the domestic aspects of the marital life while the other concentrates on a career or other earning opportunities.

Divorce is a critical point in one’s lifetime, and the decisions made will have a lasting impact. An experienced family law attorney may provide counsel on all the relevant legal issues and offer guidance on the potential options moving forward.