Divorce and Social Security benefits

Pennsylvania residents may be interested in knowing if a divorce has consequences for their Social Security benefits. Having this information ahead of time can help people when they are formulating a divorce settlement.

According to U.S. Social Security Administration guidelines, a person who was married for 10 years or longer is entitled to up to 50 percent of their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit if they are at least age 62, are currently unmarried and are not entitled to higher benefits based on their own record. Each ex-spouse is entitled to the same benefit even if their former spouse has married again.

People with a deceased ex-spouse can collect Social Security survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 provided they had not remarried before age 60. Moreover, the government will switch them over to survivor’s benefits if they are already receiving divorced spouse benefits when an ex-spouse dies. That is because survivor’s benefits are higher than retirement benefits for an ex-spouse. People can get up to 100 percent of what their ex-spouse’s full benefit would be under survivor’s benefits, but if they are on retirement benefits, they can only get up to 50 percent of the amount of their ex-spouse’s benefit.

Other rules can apply in certain circumstances. Working divorced spouses who are at or over retirement age can file to collect a divorced spousal benefit and then switch to their own benefit at age 70. It is also important to remember that the divorced spousal benefits end when the recipient remarries. Attorneys with family law experience may be able to take these various rules into account when assisting a client in the process of a divorce.

Source: Huff Post, “How Divorce Can Affect Your Social Security “, Jim T. Miller, November 11, 2013