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Social security benefits after Divorce

Getting Divorced or Remarried? Social Security Future Benefits

Issues regarding Social security including what we can expect to receive, how much it will cost and how long the system will  survive are  always ripe topics for controversy during political races.  One need only watch television for 30 minutes or more  and the ads our two presidential candidates have inflicted upon us will bring this topic up.  I, personally, think about Social Security almost daily, not because I envision actually living off of it at my retirement but because one of the Social Security Administration branch offices for Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County  is located in the building adjacent to my office, and we share a  common parking lot.  And for the past 7 months I’ve enjoyed actually being able to find a parking space…something that was often difficult in mid-day when all of their “clients” inundated the parking area. Now it’s “appointment only.”

Although not necessarily a “hot” topic in divorce cases,  future entitlement to Social Security benefits is something that your divorce attorney should discuss with you if you have been married over 10 years.  However, according to a recent report from  the University of Pennsylvania’s  Wharton School Business Social Security’s trust funds could be depleted by 2032, so this may be moot  if you’re in your early 50s or younger, but just in case here’s what you should know,

  • If you divorce, and you were married 10 years or more, you could be eligible to receive social security benefits based on the amount of social security your ex-spouse received
  • Generally, you will be entitled to received the amount of Social Security you would receive based on your own earnings record, or 50% of your ex spouse’s Social Security benefits at full retirement age, whichever is greater. For example, if your ex spouse’s Social Security benefits at full retirement is $2500.00, and your Social Security benefits, based on your earning record is $1000.00 at full retirement, you would be entitled to receive $1250.00, which is half of your ex-spouse’s benefit.
  • Receipt of benefits based on your ex spouse’s Social Security does not reduce the amount of social security the ex-spouse receives.
  • if you chose to collect Social Security benefits  early (when you reach 62) based on your former  spouse’s earnings at his/her full retirement, your benefits will be reduced to 35% of your former spouse’s benefits at full retirement.  Similarly, if you collect Social Security at age 62 based on your own earnings, the amount you would receive is 35% of what you would receive at full retirement age.  So, if you can hold out, you’ll be entitled to more money.
  • You must be divorced two years before you can begin to collect on your ex-spouse’s
  • If you are married and divorced several times, you are entitled to receive benefits based on the social security benefits of the highest earning ex -spouse.  For example, if your first ex- spouse’s Social Security benefits at full retirement are $2900.00; your second ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits at full retirement are $2500.00; your third (!) ex receives Social Security benefits of $500.00, and your Social Security benefits at full retirement age are $1100.00, then you can receive the Social Security benefits of your first ex-spouse.  And, the  third ex-spouse will receive $550.00 in benefits based on your (half of $1100.00) Isn’t this a great system?
  • If you remarry and remain married when you are eligible for Social Security benefits you will not be able to base your benefits on your ex-spouse’s earnings.
  • If your ex-spouse receives a pension, and during his/her working years was not required to pay into social security (which typically occurs when the spouse worked for the government) the amount of benefits an ex-spouse may receive from Social Security may be significantly reduced.
  • If your ex-spouse dies, and you have not remarried, you may be entitled to survivor benefits, which are different than retirement Social Security benefits, you may be entitled to these survivor benefits as early as age 60 or even age 50 if you are disabled.


Know your Future Social Security benefits when getting divorced.

In the meantime those annoying commercials will be over soon,  I’ll enjoy that extra room in the parking lot, (which, at the moment, is about as much excitement that is going on)   and hope there is still a little money there when I retire, which, will hopefully be before 2032!  And if you are getting divorces, make sure you explore the topic of Social Security with your divorce lawyer.

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