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Divorce, Remarriage, and Social Security - How It Works

Saturday, 24 November 2012

social_security_divorceIf you think the complications of divorce came to a close on the day you received your divorce decree; think again. Ask any Colorado Springs family lawyer, and they will tell you that your divorce will continue to be a factor to be dealt with, even well into your retirement years. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has thought of everything. They even devoted several pages on their website (www.SSA.gov) to help divorced people understand their benefit options.

One of the most commonly asked questions in any divorce situation is about whether a divorced spouse can receive the same Social Security benefits as they would have received during marriage. In other words, if your spouse earned more credits toward

Social Security compensation than you did, would you also receive that higher amount or would the SSA base your retirement income on your own work history? The answer can be found on SSA.gov, the website for Social Security.

A few key numbers apply when one considers the impact of divorce on Social Security. The first one to remember is 10 years, which is how long you must have been married before becoming eligible for benefits based on an ex-spouse's record. But there are also some other requirements:

1. You must remain unmarried;
2. If you did remarry, your new marriage must have ended by death, annulment or divorce, and you must have been divorced for at least two years;
3. You must be 62 years old or older;
4. Your ex-spouse must be entitled to receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and;
5. The benefit you would receive on your own must be less than the benefit earned by your ex-spouse's work history.

What if your ex-spouse has not yet applied for benefits but could qualify for them?

As long as you have been divorced for at least two years, you can receive benefits on his or her record; however, in order to receive your ex-spouse's benefits, his or her record must be the higher amount. If you choose to receive the benefits sooner than your ex-spouse, the amount will be reduced for age.

What happens if you have reached full retirement age and you are eligible to receive your own benefit as well as your ex-spouse's benefit?

You can choose to receive only the benefits you would have received from the divorced spouse, and delay your own benefits until a later date. By waiting until a later age, you can receive a higher amount on your own retirement benefit, based on the effect of Delayed Retirement Credits.

If you choose to work while receiving benefits, remember the retirement benefits earning limit would still apply.

How would Social Security benefits work for your divorced spouse?

Divorce lawyers are often asked if they can prevent an ex-spouse from receiving their Social Security benefits, but few people realize that this is not within the jurisdiction of family court. Federal law permits an ex-spouse to receive benefits based on your work record, as long as your marriage lasted at least ten years. Keep in mind, however, that when an ex-spouse receives these benefits they will in no way affect how much you or a new spouse would receive.

In addition to the "ten year rule," the Social Security Administration says your ex-spouse can receive benefits that are based on your work history starting at age 62, as long as he or she remains unmarried. The benefit your ex would be entitled to from his or her own work history must be less than what they would receive from your work, and they can only receive it when you become eligible. Even if you haven't yet applied for benefits, your spouse can still receive Social Security benefits based on your record.

How does an ex-spouse's death impact Social Security benefits?

A deceased worker's former spouse who is age 60 or older can receive benefits if the marriage lasted at least ten years. However, a former spouse wouldn't need to meet the required age or length-of-marriage rule if she or he is caring for their natural or legally adopted child who is younger than age 16, or who is disabled, and also is entitled based on the deceased worker's work.

A Colorado Springs divorce lawyer can help you better understand your Social Security benefits and rights in a divorce situation, including the impact of remarriage, death and work history.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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