Social Security and Divorce: What Happens to Our Benefits?
8 Jan 2015

Social Security and Divorce: What Happens to Our Benefits?

According to a study at Ohio’s Bowling Green University, senior divorces –also known as “gray divorces” – have increased dramatically over the past few decades as baby boomers have approached or hit retirement age. Between 1980 and 2008, the divorce rate for men 65 and older increased from five to 10 percent. The divorce rate for women in this age range tripled from four to 12 percent.

There are many issues that make such later-in-life divorces unique, one of which is Social Security benefits. While the allocation of these benefits may be a back burner issue for a younger couple, it can have a significant and immediate impact on the personal finances of each individual involved in a senior divorce.

While you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney about your particular situation, the basic rules that apply to Social Security benefits revolve around age, length of marriage, and the work history of each spouse:

  • If you are 62 or older, were married for 10 or more years, are currently unmarried, and not entitled to receive a higher benefit based on your own work, you can receive Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings, even if he or she has since remarried. This will not reduce the benefits your ex receives.
  • Ex-spouses who were married 10 years or more can also collect survivor benefits when a former spouse passes away.
  • If you both worked, generally the lower earner may receive benefits based on the higher earner’s work. If you never worked, you can collect benefits on your ex’s work, and your ex is still eligible to collect what he or she has earned over the years.
  • If your ex-spouse qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply for them, you can still receive benefits if you have been divorced two years.
  • As with your own earned benefits, the longer you can wait to collect divorced spousal benefits — up to your full retirement age — the higher your benefit will be.

Alan Welch: Brunswick Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Although divorce is never easy, the legal process does not have to be hard. For over 20 years, I have represented clients during the most difficult times of their lives. If you are facing a divorce, I welcome the opportunity to provide you with affordable, effective representation so you can get through your divorce and get on with your life. Call my office today at (912) 265-9811 to talk about your case for free.

This article has been prepared by J. Alan Welch Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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