Social Security Benefits and Divorce

Thank you, Mary Salisbury, CDFA, for sharing this guest blog on social security benefits and divorce. Additional information about Mary can be found below.

Social Security benefit rules are complex and confusing, and even more so when you get a divorce.  It’s important for planning purposes to know what your cash flow will be after divorce. It’s especially important if you are over 50.   Attorneys don’t provide you with cash flow projections after your divorce but my process does. This is just one benefit of many that you will get when you hire a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.

Social Security Benefits on Your Ex-Spouse’s Work Record

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) if:

  • You are unmarried and you are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and;
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least 2 years.

The amount of Social Security benefits you receive after you divorce that are based on your ex-spouses work record have no effect on a number of benefits your ex-spouse or his or her current spouse may receive.

If you are eligible for benefits on your own record and ex-spouse’s benefits, the Social Security Administration will pay your benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so the combination of benefits equals the higher amount.

Note: If you were born before Jan. 2, 1954 and have reached Full Retirement Age, you can choose to “file restricted” and receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is Jan 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at Full Retirement Age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement and spousal benefits.

Social Security Benefits When Your Ex-Spouse Dies

If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided your marriage lasted 10 years or more.

  • Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a divorced widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates of other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record.
  • Survivor benefits can be received independent of individual benefits.
  • Benefits can be taken as early as age 60.

Note: Any benefit taken, whether as an ex-spouse or a surviving ex-spouse,  before your Full Retirement Age will be permanently reduced.

Social Security if You Remarry After Divorce

Social Security benefits if you divorce then remarry will stop your ex-spousal benefits.  You generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).

However, if you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies and receiving survivor benefits, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits.

Read more about Social Security Benefits if you are divorced at the Social Security website.

About Guest Blogger, Mary Salisbury

While working as a financial advisor, Mary Salisbury became a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst because she wanted to help divorcing individuals and couples. Mary found that the people she talked to were experiencing the same fear that she had experienced when she went through my own divorce after 26 years of marriage. She has since changed her practice to solely help people get through divorce a better way, the right way, and started The Right Divorce Solution.

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