HOW DIVORCE AFFECTS SPOUSAL SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

Most people who have worked a sufficient number of years are eligible for Social Security benefits when they retire. Although the full retirement age varies, workers can begin to collect benefits at the age of 62 for a small penalty. For those that may not have enough credits to qualify for benefits on their own, Social Security provides spousal benefits, which are calculated in relation to the qualifying spouse’s income.

It may be surprising to learn that even those who are divorced from a marriage that lasted at least 10 years could be entitled to receive spousal benefits. These benefits work similarly to spousal benefits awarded to married couples, and any benefits a divorced spouse receives from an ex-spouse’s work record does not affect the current benefits of the ex-spouse or their new spouse. To be eligible for divorced spouse’s Social Security benefits, a few stipulations apply.

Social Security Benefits and Remarriage

The divorced spouse must be unmarried at the time of application and remain unmarried while they are receiving Social Security benefits. If there was a remarriage prior to the application, that marriage must have ended at least two years before filing. This rule is in place to prohibit a person from attempting to collect spousal benefits from both their current and past spouses.

Benefit Limitations

For those who plan to pursue divorced spouse Social Security benefits, it is important to keep in mind that the ex-spouse’s benefits must be greater than that of your own. Additionally, any divorced benefits paid will not exceed half of the full amount that the ex-spouse is entitled. For example, if an ex-spouse is due $2,000 a month, the Social Security benefits paid will not exceed $1,000.

Although those seeking divorced spouse Social Security benefits must be aged 62 years or older, they do not have to wait for their ex-spouse to catch up in age to receive their benefits to apply. For example, a 62-year-old ex-spouse may be eligible to receive divorced Social Security benefits even if their former partner is currently too young to collect.

Divorce Survivor Benefits

If you are divorced from a marriage that lasted at least 10 years and your ex-spouse has passed away, you may be eligible for survivor benefits. Unlike divorced spouse benefits, survivor benefits can pay up to 100 percent of what your ex-spouse was due. Also, if you were receiving divorced benefits and your ex-spouse dies, you will be automatically switched over to the survivor benefits. In this case, spouses need only be 60 years old to be eligible.

The age or length-of-marriage rule will not apply if you currently take care of your child who is younger than age 16 or disabled. The child must be yours and your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child. The amount awarded for divorced survivor benefits will be based on the average lifetime earnings of the worker before they passed away.

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