Because divorces often occur later in a couple’s marriage, many have questions regarding what, if any social security benefits they are entitled to under the name of an ex-spouse. This is especially true when a spouse has little work history of their own, perhaps even making them ineligible for social security under their own record.
Generally speaking, an ex-spouse is eligible to apply for benefits based on the other spouse’s record with a maximum spousal benefit of up to 50% of what the the other spouse is eligible to receive. In the event both spouses are eligible to collect under their own work records, the higher benefit of the two will be payable.
Of course there are a few rules to keep in mind. First, you must have been married to your spouse for a minimum of 10 years to collect on their social security benefit – AND – you cannot remarry. Both you and your ex-spouse must be at least 62 and have the necessary work credits to start benefits, however, waiting to reach full retirement age to collect will result in higher benefits. Those born before January 2, 1954 have the added perk of being able to claim social security benefits under their own work record until they reach full retirement age and then switch to their own benefit when they reach full retirement age, but this option is disallowed for others.
It is a common misconception that an ex-spouse will reduce the social security benefit of the other when they make a claim for spousal benefits. Each spouse is eligible to receive their full benefit (contingent on the age they retire) under their own record. If an ex-spouse applies for spousal benefits, they receive an amount that is equivalent to 50% (or less) of their ex-spouse’s benefit without reducing the other spouse’s payment – it’s a computation, not a reduction.
When considering divorce after years of marriage, there are many questions you will have regarding the division of marital property including retirement accounts, social security benefits, spousal maintenance and other concerns you may have that impact your financial future. For marriages of a long duration, it is important to work with an attorney who has experience to ensure you get your fair share of all of the assets and any other benefits you are entitled to. We encourage you to contact the Libertyville divorce lawyers of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for more information at 847-680-4970.