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Divorce can bring unexpected financial benefits, experts say

While divorce can create financial hardships for some,

While divorce can create financial hardships for some, experts say there are some bright spots in that picture. Credit: Getty Images

‘Tis the season, not only for merriment, but matrimonial meltdown. January is the month many folks file for divorce.

Fear not, if you find yourself in that unfortunate crowd. While divorce can wreak financial havoc on families, in some cases it can have unexpected financial benefits.

Surprise, you’re entitled: If you’re divorced, were married for at least 10 years and are currently unmarried, when you turn 62 you can receive a Social Security spousal benefit if your ex-spouse is 62 or older, says Sharon Lacy of Natural Bridges Financial Advisors in Santa Cruz, California. “If you’re married, you must wait until your spouse files for their own benefit.”

A nonworking spouse may receive a portion of the working spouse’s IRA in the divorce settlement, adds Jeffrey Sklar of Sklar, Heyman, Hirshfield & Kantor CPAs in Bellmore. And sometimes spouses forget to change their beneficiaries after divorce, and their former spouse inherits their IRA or 401(k) — “an unexpected windfall.”

Potential tax benefits: Married couples who file jointly sometimes land in a higher tax bracket and pay more in taxes once their salaries are combined. “Divorce, which leads to single filing, can mean more back in the pocket at tax time,” says Fred Schebesta of personal finance comparison site

Become the chief financial officer: “The big positive is better control over their money — especially if their spouse had a shopping or gambling problem,” says Emma Johnson, who blogs at

Manage your retirement account however you choose. “Those that are risk-tolerant may expand their investment choices in ways that would’ve made their ex-spouses uncomfortable,” says Andrew Samalin of the Samalin Group in Manhattan.

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