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Does Divorce Affect My Social Security?

January 27, 2015

Keep your eye on the full picture

it is essential to know what financial resources will be yours after divorce. When calculating your full financial picture be sure to consider social security benefits–your own or those of your ex-spouse. Yes, even if divorced, you may be entitled to claim social security retirement or disability benefits based upon the earnings of your ex. If you were the lower wage earner, you probably are entitled to claim on your former spouse's earnings record. And, you also may have a right to collect a social security survivor benefit of your former spouse. The rules vary, but one essential key to the right to collect in both scenarios is that your marriage lasted ten (10) years or longer.

Social Security Retirement Benefit
To collect on the regular benefits, you must be age 62 or older and unmarried. If you remarry, you lose this benefit, unless your re-marriage ends. If the second marriage lasts more than ten years, you can choose which benefits you may wish to receive. To evaluate what is best, review whether what you would receive from your own work record is less than that what you would receive based on your spouse's work record. The benefit you collect generally will be 50% of your ex-spouse's benefit. (Your collections will not affect the amount your ex will receive.) The exact amount you receive will be determined upon the age you are when you choose to receive the benefit . Your former spouse must be eligible for benefits, which means he/she must be at least 62, for you to begin collections.

In some cases if you are the higher wage earner you may postpone taking your retirement, and choose to collect on the benefit of your spouse. For example, say you are the husband of a 25 year marriage who does not need a full benefit, you could choose at age 66 (full retirement age) to collect on your 62 year old wife's benefit. So long as you are unmarried, in this scenario you can delay taking your benefit until you are 70, and reap a larger personal benefit.

Social Security Survivor Benefit
if your ex spouse dies, you may be eligible to collect a survivor benefit the same as a widow or widower so long as you have not re- married before you are age 60. Again, the amount you receive will depend upon your age when you begin receiving the benefit.

In both cases, it does not matter if your ex has remarried.

The Social Security Administration provides a complete discussion of eligibility and rules regarding collection of social security benefits on their website at   We are happy to help you plan for your future and discuss this information in greater detail with you.