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Divorce And Social Security Benefits

Who Qualifies For Spousal Benefits

How social security benefits work for divorced couples

To get spousal benefits, you need to be at least 62 or caring for your spouse’s child who’s younger than 16 or disabled. If you’re currently married, you need to have been married for at least a year. Your spouse must already be taking Social Security, as well.

If you’re divorced, you’ll only be eligible if your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you’ve been divorced for a two-year minimum. You’ll also need to be unmarried to collect Social Security based on an ex’s work record. While your ex-spouse needs to be eligible for Social Security — meaning your ex-spouse needs to be at least 62 and have a minimum of 40 work credits — he or she doesn’t actually need to be collecting it in order for you to take spousal benefits.

If You Receive Or Plan To Receive Social Security Benefits Either For Retirement Or Through Disability Insurance How Will Your Divorce Impact These Benefits

By Katherine MillerUpdated: June 11, 2021Categories: Divorce Process, Financial Issues

Fortunately, the law is relatively clear on the circumstances under which divorced spouses are entitled to receive Social Security benefits you wont have to negotiate the matter in your divorce. Heres an overview of what you need to know.

How Much Will My Spouse Receive

If your spouse qualifies for benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

If they begin receiving benefits:

If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government employment, the amount of their Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced.

at any age

Benefits paid to your spouse will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.

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How Do You Apply For These Benefits

If your former spouse is still living, the application process is fairly straightforward, although you will need to gather a few documents ahead of time.

Make sure you have your U.S. birth certificate or proof of citizenship, your prior year W-2 or tax return, and documents related to your marriage and divorce. When you have the necessary paperwork, you can apply online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office.

If youre seeking survivors benefits, youll need to call the SSA directly and request an appointment before you can apply.

How Is Social Security Impacted If Your Former Spouse Dies

Social Security and Divorce: What Women Need to Know

The scenario changes if your ex-spouse has passed away. If you meet specific conditions, you can apply for full retirement age for survivors isn’t necessarily the same age that applies for retirement benefits.

You may be able to apply for survivor benefits if you’ve been collecting spousal benefits or if you’ve been drawing retirement benefits from your own work record. To qualify for surviving divorced spouse benefits, you must meet these conditions:

  • Your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
  • You are not married, or you remarried after you turned 60 .
  • You are at least 60 years old .
  • If you’re entitled to benefits on your own work record, the amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s record.
  • If you are caring for a child of your former spouse who is under 16 or is disabled and entitled to benefits, age and length-of-marriage requirements don’t apply.

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Different Rules For Survivor Benefits

The rule about not switching benefits does not apply to Social Security survivor benefits, which divorced spouses may be eligible for if their former partner is deceased. Divorced spouses can file for survivor benefits as early as age 60 and switch over to their own benefit as early as age 62. They also have the option of filing for their own benefit first, as early as age 62, then filing for survivor benefits when they reach their FRA if that will result in a higher benefit.

A worker must earn a certain amount of Social Security credits to qualify for benefits. The number of credits needed for survivor’s benefits depends on the age of the worker at the time of death.

Divorced spouses who are caring for their deceased spouses natural or legally adopted child who is younger than age 16or disabled and entitled to benefitscan apply at any age. In this case, the rule that the couple must have been married for at least 10 years is also waived. However, the benefits will last only until the child reaches age 16 or is no longer disabled.

How Much In Benefits Am I Entitled To From My Ex

There are several factors that determine exactly how much of an ex-spouse benefit you will receive, but in general, at full retirement age, you will receive one-half of your former spouses retirement benefit assuming you meet all criteria.

If your former spouse is deceased, you will receive his or her full retirement benefit.

Social Security is gender-neutral.

Benefits criteria apply to ex-husbands as well as ex-wives.

When an ex-spouse collects benefits on a former spouses record, Social Security does not notify the ex-spouse that this is taking place.

Some of the factors that will impact how much you receive include:

  • Have you reached your full retirement age yet? If you take benefits before your full retirement age, the amount you receive will be reduced. The age for full retirement gradually increases from 65 to 67 years old depending on the year you were born.
  • If you are raising children you had with your ex-spouse and he or she passes away, you may receive benefits for their care until they are age 16. After that, they may receive benefits based on your ex-spouses work record until they are 18 or 19, and still in high school full-time. Older children may receive benefits if they are disabled.

If your ex-spouse has remarried and that new spouse is collecting benefits based on his or her work record, it will not reduce the amount of benefits the new spouse or you receive.

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Benefits For Your Children

When you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. Your eligible child can be your biological child, adopted child, or stepchild. A dependent grandchild may also qualify.

To receive benefits, the child must:

Benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary school at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.

Benefits paid for your child will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.

A Comprehensive Guide To Social Security After Divorce

Divorced Spouse Social Security Benefit

Social Security can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure of what benefits you qualify for as … a divorced individual.


Since Social Security benefits can make a big difference in your cash flow and income taxes in retirement, it is worthwhile to understand how this important benefit works. If you are divorced after being married at least 10 years, you can claim social security benefits on your ex-spouses work record. If youve been married less than 10 years, you cannot claim any social security based on your ex-spouses work history so its critical you dont finalize a divorce after 9 years of marriage without seriously thinking through the consequences.

Before jumping into the nitty gritty, lets cover the key highlights:

  • There are no decisions to make or filing requirements during the divorce. The benefits are determined by the Social Security Administration when you get to age 62+ so this is a rare financial issue you can put off thinking about until well after the divorce is finalized if you are younger than 62.
  • No court order is necessary all you need is proof you were married for at least 10 years and proof you are now divorced.
  • Your former spouses benefits are not affected at all by your claim they dont even have to know you are filing on their work history!
  • Benefits can be received while your ex-spouse is alive as well as after they die.
  • How do I qualify as an ex-spouse?

    What if Ive been married and divorced more than once?

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    Social Security And Divorce: What You Need To Know

    Although more and more women are in the workforce, many can receive a larger Social Security benefit based on their ex-spouses work record than they would on their own. The Social Security Administration will calculate each benefit for you, and you will receive whichever is the higher amount. You do not receive both benefits.

    A divorced woman must meet certain criteria to collect benefits based on her ex-spouses work record:

    • You must have been married for 10 years or longer.
    • You must not be currently married.
    • If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouses record unless your later marriage ends .
    • If you re-married and your second spouse is deceased, you qualify to claim benefits from either your first spouse if that marriage lasted at least 10 years, or your second spouse as long as you were married at least 9 months before he died.
  • You must be age 62 or older.
  • If your ex is deceased, you can collect at age 60 as a surviving divorced spouse.
  • If your ex is deceased and you are disabled, you can collect at age 50.
  • Do I have to wait for my ex-spouse to start collecting benefits?

    You can start collecting benefits if your ex-spouse is 62 or older and you have been divorced for two or more years.

    How much of his benefit will I receive?

    If my ex-spouse remarried and his new spouse is collecting benefits based on his record, will that reduce my benefits?

    Did I have to file special papers at the time of my divorce?

    Important Note:

    Contact An Experienced Raleigh Nc Divorce Lawyer

    The potential availability of spousal Social Security benefits after a divorce, whether immediately or down the road, may have a significant impact on your separation agreement and your future finances.

    If you are considering divorce or have been divorced and have not yet determined how to obtain the full Social Security benefit you are due, we can help.

    The Raleigh, N.C., law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates focuses on family law. Attorney Charles Ullman is a board-certified Specialist in North Carolina family law, a certification that requires additional education, extensive experience, and a written examination.

    Our legal team focuses on providing compassion and understanding as we guide our clients through the transition to a new life. Phone 336-0136 or contact us online today to set up an initial consultation.

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    Social Security And Divorce: 7 Myths About Claiming Your Ex’s Benefits

    Even if it’s been decades since the ink dried on your divorce decree, those marital vows you took can pay off in the form of higher Social Security benefits. As long as you haven’t remarried, your marriage lasted at least 10 years, and two years have passed since your divorce was finalized, you can qualify for up to 50% of a living ex-spouse’s benefit once you’re both eligible to start collecting.

    Many people will get more Social Security simply from claiming based on their own record, rather than an ex’s. But if you have a limited work history, collecting on an ex’s record could give those monthly checks a serious boost.

    Social Security Benefits For A Surviving Divorced Spouse

    Divorce and Social Security Spousal Benefits

    Derivative social security benefits may be available even if the former spouse predeceased the applicant, so called widows benefits. Again, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years before final divorce decree, and the contributing spouse must have been fully insured at death .The surviving divorced spouse need only be age 60 , provided there is no remarriage before age 60. This point is critical for a spouse who intends to remarry shortly before turning 60. By delaying the marriage until age 60 is attained, the benefits would not be lost. The surviving divorced widow receives 100 percent of the benefits instead of 50 percent if the former spouse is alive. Remarriage does not prevent eligibility for disabled surviving spouses or disabled divorced surviving spouses who marry at age 50-59.

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    Basic Rules Must Be Met

    So long as some basic rules are met, you may be eligible to claim a higher retirement benefit based on your ex’s work record. This applies to both ex-spouses, whether you are the ex-wife or the ex-husband, and also for divorced spouses in a same-sex marriage.

    The basic rules

    • You and your ex must have been married for 10 consecutive years or longer, even if the marriage ended 30 years ago.
    • Both you and your ex must be at least age 62 before you can claim as an ex-spouse.
    • To collect on an ex’s record you must not be remarried.
    • You and your ex must be divorced for two years or longer, or your ex must already be claiming retirement benefits.

    Full Retirement Age

    This is the month and year when you reach a specific age for Social Security benefits. It is based on the year you were born. If you were born from 1943 to 1954, your FRA is 66. Later birthdays have a later FRA. Find your FRA at Social Securitys website.

    If you qualify as an ex-spouse based on these criteria, your retirement benefit would be half of your ex’s primary insurance amount, or PIA, so long as you claim at your full retirement age . The PIA is the benefit a person would receive if he or she elects to begin receiving retirement benefits at his or her normal FRA. You can claim as early as 62, but you will get less than half the amount you would get at FRA.

    How Much Will You Get As An Ex

    The general rule with Social Security is that the longer you wait to file, the higher your monthly check will be. If you wait until your full retirement age , youll get 50% of your exs benefit. Full retirement age, or normal retirement age, depends on the year you were born.

    If you were born between January 2, 1943 and January 1, 1955, your FRA is 66. The full retirement age increases gradually for those born after 1955. If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is age 67.

    Heres how your age can impact your benefit amount: Suppose your ex gets a retirement benefit of $1,673 . If you claim the divorced spouse benefit at your full retirement age, youd get 50% of that: $836.50.

    But if you apply at age 62 instead, youll get a permanently reduced amountroughly 30% less, or about $585 in this example.

    Unlike your own Social Security retirement benefits, which increase about 8% for each year you delay claiming until age 70, theres no incentive to wait past full retirement age for divorced spousal benefits. Youre capped at 50% of your spouses benefit.

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    When Is The Best Time To Claim On Your Ex

    When to claim depends on how long you think you’ll live. If you are generally healthy and active or have relatives who have lived a long time, you’ll probably want to plan for 20, 25, 30, or more years in retirement. With Social Security, the longer you wait to claim, the larger the amount of monthly payments you’ll generally receive on your own work record. However, your benefit as an ex-spouse will not get any larger than half your ex’s PIA. And, that is only if you wait until your FRA to claim.

    Let’s look at an example: Clair and her ex were married for 17 years, from 1975 to 1992. She worked and qualifies for her own Social Security benefits. Now, at age 64 , Clair is thinking about retirement and wants to know when she should claim, on whose record, and how much she would receive in monthly benefits under each scenario.

    Clair claims at 64
    For illustrative purposes only.

    If Clair claims at 64, she locks in a permanent reduction of her monthly benefits. If she waits till 70, she’ll get a higher amount, but would have to use other assets to pay her retirement expenses between now and age 70.

    Divorce And Social Security Benefits

    Social Security Divorce Benefits MADE EASY

    Divorce is never easy no matter what age a person may be. It is often a lengthy and challenging process which requires the divorcing couple to negotiate the division of their property and make choices which will affect their financial future for many years to come. For older individuals, one of the assets which will probably be considered is their social security benefit. There are key things for a person in this situation to know about divorce and social security benefits.

    The Social Security Administration has numerous rules and provisions concerning the division of social security benefits. For example, a divorced person who was married to their ex-spouse for 10 years or more, can receive benefits on their former spouses social security record if: They are 62 or older They are not married 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-spouses work. It is not possible to change social security entitlements by an agreement of the parties. These benefits are regulated by Federal law.

    Our office has experience which will help you understand the potential division of social security benefits as well as other assets during divorce. Schedule a consultation today by contacting Miller Law Group or calling 1-914-738-7765

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