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What happens to Social Security benefits after a divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2021 | Divorce, Property Division |

Social Security benefits generally have a complex and confusing set of rules, but it becomes more so when a couple divorces. So, it is helpful to simplify. It is important to note ex-spouses married ten or more years are entitled to receive 50% of the (derivative or dependent) benefits based on the other spouse’s work record, even if the working spouse remarries. That 10-year mark starts on the date of the marriage and ends with the termination of marital status. That milestone is not affected when the couple separates physically or legally before the divorce. In addition, the working spouse is still entitled to 100% of their benefits while the ex-spouse gets 50%. If the working spouse dies, the former spouse (or spouses) receives 100% of the working spouse’s benefits.

There are still specific guidelines

There are still certain rules for ex-spouses to collect their rightful claim on their working’s spouse’s benefits:

  • The working spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • The ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The ex-spouse’s own Social Security entitlement is less than 50% of the working spouse.
  • The ex-spouse can claim benefits even if the working spouse has not.
  • The marriage ended more than two years ago.
  • A remarried ex-spouse usually cannot receive the working spouse’s benefits.
  • The ex-spouse can switch from 50% of benefits to 100% if the working spouse dies.
  • The ex-spouse can claim benefits from more than one working spouse if the other marriages lasted ten years.

A big issue with grey divorce

Since the children involved in a grey divorce are usually adults, dividing assets is often the biggest issue. Since many couples did their retirement planning based on the marriage lasting until death, they need to do a significant readjustment as those plans, which now go towards two households. So, being aware of potential social Security benefits can be a real boon for the former couple as they plan for their new financial future.


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