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How social security benefits are affected by divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2021 | Uncategorized

If you’re contemplating divorce, there are many questions you may be asking. Questions about asset division, alimony and child support come up frequently and are often dealt with through agreement by the parties or from a decision by the court. Social security benefits may be low on your priority list but it’s an important question to address.

Spouses can receive social security

When a couple remains married into retirement age, one spouse can receive social security benefits on the record of the other spouse. When one spouse does not work, or does not work enough, to qualify for social security benefits on their own, they are entitled to receive benefits based upon the work record of their partner.

Ex-spouses can receive benefits too

Following a divorce, ex-spouses can still claim social security benefits on their former spouse’s record. If the marriage lasted at least 10 years, if a spouse does not qualify for benefits on their own, they are not re-married and they are at least 62 years old, they can use their ex-spouse’s work record as the basis for drawing social security.

Sometimes, a former spouse only partially qualifies for social security on their own. If this is the case, social security will pay their benefit first. But if their ex-spouse’s benefit would entitle them to a higher amount, social security will then pay the difference.

The benefit amount received by the former spouse depends largely on when they choose to take it. Social security can be drawn as early as age 62 but the amount received is greatly reduced from the amount received by waiting a few years. Regardless, the former spouse is entitled to no more the 50% of the total benefit available to the primary spouse. Whatever amount the former spouse draws, it has no impact on the amount drawn by the primary spouse.