California residents may have read recent reports concerning a possible divorce between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. While celebrity gossip columnists were busying themselves with speculation about the possible causes of the split or details about the size of the Hollywood power couple’s estate, family law attorneys pointed out the possible significance of the timing of the divorce. According to reports, Affleck and Garner will likely end their marriage around the time of their tenth wedding anniversary, but the date on which their divorce papers are filed could have a major impact on their future Social Security benefits.

While Social Security benefits may not be a major concern for celebrities that earn millions of dollars, those with more modest means often rely on these payments to make ends meet. Couples who divorce after being married for 10 years or longer are able to receive Social Security benefits before they reach the full retirement age. If one spouse chooses to take the reduced benefits associated with this option, their decision will not affect the benefits subsequently paid to their husband or wife.

Qualifying for the higher Social Security benefits of a deceased spouse is one more reason to remain married for at least 10 years, and filing a restricted claim may be another motivation. This kind of claim allows a spouse to continue to accrue retirement credits while receiving half of the benefits that would have gone to their deceased husband or wife.

Divorcing spouses are often more concerned about their immediate financial needs than any long-term consequences, and attorneys may advise their clients to take a more objective view during divorce negotiations. Such advice could include thinking more about their retirement needs or taking future income tax considerations into account when discussing how marital assets will be divided.