divorce and social security benefits

Divorce is not a simple proposition at any age.  It is often a long and emotionally draining process which involves complicated decisions about dividing marital assets and negotiating future financial stability.  When a couple has been married for decades, there are a number of factors to consider in marital dissolution.  One factor is the couples’ respective social security benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, a divorced person who was married to their ex-spouse for 10 years or more, can receive benefits on their former spouse’s record if: They are unmarried; Are age 62 or older; Their ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and their own social security benefit based on their work is less than they would receive based on their ex-spouse’s work.

For a person who qualifies for their own social security benefit as well as their ex-spouse’s benefit, the Social Security Administration will give the person the higher of the two benefit amounts. Meaning if your ex-spouse has a higher benefit yours will be raised up using your ex-spouse’s benefit to the higher amount. Essentially, you can collect whichever benefit is higher, but not both.  The amount of your benefit will depend on the amount your former spouse may qualify to receive.  However generally, at full retirement age, you are going to be qualified to receive half of your ex-spouse’s benefit.

If you have been divorced two years, you may qualify for and receive your portion of your ex-spouse’s benefits even if your ex-spouse has yet to draw their benefit.  Generally, if you remarry, you will not be eligible for your ex-spouse’s benefits unless your marriage ends. You can still qualify for your ex-spouse’s benefit even if they have remarried and even if their other spouse has also applied.

For those born before January 2, 1954 who are full retirement age, there is an option to choose to receive their ex-spouses benefit while waiting to receive their own benefit. For divorced persons whose former spouse has died they must be 60 or older, or 50 if they are disabled with a marriage lasting at least 10 years and a lower benefit amount than their deceased spouse.  Additionally, if you remarry before you turn 60 or 50 if you are disabled, this benefit will not be available to you.  However, after these ages marriage will not affect your eligibility.

Social Security Divorce benefits can be complicated.  Our office has experience navigating these laws and can provide social security planning advice to help you understand your options.  Please contact us if we may be of assistance.

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