Divorce and Social Security Benefits

If a couple divorces (i.e. the judgment is entered) after ten years of marriage, it is possible for both spouses to benefit from the primary wage-earner’s social security benefits.

However, there are some requirements to obtain this benefit, as outlined below.

-          The ex-spouse seeking spousal benefits cannot be remarried, unless he/she remarried after the age of sixty (60) or the subsequent remarriage ended prior to the seeking of benefits.  It does not matter whether or the former primary wage-earner spouse remarried.

-          Both former spouses must be over the age of sixty-two (62).

-          The divorce must have been finalized more than two years prior to the seeking of benefits or the former spouse must currently be collecting benefits.

-          The ex-spouse cannot collect both his/her social security and their ex-spouse’s social security.  The options are that an ex-spouse either receives 100% of their own social security or 50% of the other former-spouse’s social security (although this does not affect the original wage earner from collecting 100% of their own social security).

Example: A couple is married from 1983-2000 (17 years) the husband remarries for several years but divorces again.  After he is 62 and elects to take social security, he has the option of collecting 100% of his benefits or 50% or his first wife’s (because the marriage was over 10 years).  If he would have stayed married over ten years to his second wife before he divorced, he would have had the option of collecting 50% of her social security, if it was higher than his.  This does not mean though that people can collect multiple social securities, they can only collect one but they have the option of collecting whichever one has the greatest benefit after they have been married to someone for over ten years.

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