Social Security Benefits After Divorce


Jean Mahserjian


Divorce does have some effects on social security benefits. The basics are quite simple. If you are entitled to receive social security benefits based upon your own earnings record, you will, of course, be able to collect social security after divorce based on that earnings record. However, if you were married for ten or more years, you might be able to collect social security benefits under your spouse's record after you are divorce. There are a few qualifications that you must deal with.

The first issue to be addressed is the amount of time that you were married before the divorce. To collect social security benefits based upon your former spouse's earnings record, you must have been married for at least ten years. If you or your spouse are considering divorce, this ten year time limit might be an important issue. For example, if you have been married for just nine years, and if having this social security benefit after divorce will help you, you might want to negotiate a one year separation before the divorce. That way, you have preserved your ability to collect social security under your soon to be ex spouse's earnings record after the divorce. The one year separation could have some impact upon other rights that you need to address. So, it is a good idea to discuss this issue with your divorce attorney or with an accountant before finalizing a separation or divorce agreement.

You cannot collect social security under an ex spouse's earnings record if you remarry. So, if you have carefully preserved this benefit after divorce, you might want to be very careful about remarrying. You can collect social security benefits under the next spouse's earnings record, but the same time rule will apply. That is, you must remain married to that individual for ten years before you can collect social security under their earnings record.

Many people simply want to know how much they will collect in social security benefits. The general rule when collecting benefits under someone else's earnings record is that you cannot collect more than fifty percent of that person's benefit. So, if your spouse or ex spouse is going to receive a monthly benefit of $1500, you cannot collect more than $750 if you collect under their earnings record. You need to know what your own benefit will be to decide if you would be better off collecting under your own earnings record or under a spouse or former spouse's earnings record after divorce.

The rules that pertain to collecting social security after divorce are different than the rules that pertain to collecting social security after the death of a spouse to whom you are still married. THose rules should not be confused.

You can always check with the social security administration to find out what your social security rights and benefits are. The social security administration also maintains a website that you can interact with to figure out your rights and benefits.


Jean Mahserjian has practiced family law for close to two decades and is the author of many books devoted to helping consumers understand family law, including the issues of child custody and support. To download free excerpts from her family law books, visit: Divorce Help




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