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Social Security after divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Divorce

Even though you ended your marriage, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits under certain circumstances. Knowing some facts about Social Security and divorce can help you seek this benefit.

General requirements

You may qualify for up to 50 percent of a living former spouse’s Social Security benefits after you are both eligible for benefits if you did not remarry, the marriage was at least 10 years and two years have elapsed since your divorce was final.

Many people receive more benefits based upon their own employment record. But a former spouse’s record may provide greater benefits if you have a limited work history. Spouses cannot receive double benefits.

Starting Social Security early reduces benefits, however. You qualify for 50 percent of your former spouse’s benefit if you wait until full retirement age. Your checks will be 32.5 percent of their primary insurance amount if you start at 62.

Former spouse

Divorce decrees prohibiting a spouse from receiving their former spouse’s benefits are unenforceable if their marriage lasted at least 10 years. Former spouses do not have to approve eligibility for benefits based upon their work history, but the Social Security Administration may need information to find their record.

Claims based upon your former spouse’s record does not reduce or affect their benefits. If that spouse remarries, their new spouse’s benefits are unaffected.

Different benefits

You do not have to wait until your ex-spouse takes benefits before using their record. However, the former spouse must qualify for benefits by being at least 62 and having 40 work credits which equals 10 years of full-time work. You must also be at least 62.

The SSA will provide you with the benefits that are higher. If your former spouse’s work history makes you eligible for higher benefits, SSA will give you benefits based upon your history and use your ex-spouse’s record to pay the difference.

If you are receiving Social Security based upon your employment history, you receive an eight percent delayed retirement credit for each year you put off on delaying benefits past your full retirement age over 70. If you receive benefits based upon your current or ex-spouse’s record, your benefits reach their highest limit when you reach full retirement age.

You can receive benefits on your spouse’s record and later switch to your larger benefits after you reach full retirement age. But you must file a restricted application for Social Security and had to be born on or before Jan. 2, 1954.

Spouses must also make decisions on other assets. Attorneys can help provide options that meet your situation and seek a fair and reasonable decree.