We all look forward to retirement. We all spend years working hard to make sure we have a secure financial future after we are done working. When people get divorced, the picture of financial security they have worked to develop over the years can become much more complicated. What many people do not realize, however, is that even after you get divorced, you may still be able to collect Social Security retirement benefits based on your former spouse’s employment. In the event your Social Security monthly benefit would be less than one-half of your former spouse’s, then you may be eligible to collect the equivalent of one-half your former spouse’s monthly benefit. This does not decrease your former spouse’s benefit.
In order to collect Social Security retirement benefits based on your former spouse’s employment and contributions, you will need to meet several requirements. First, you must have been married to your former spouse for at least ten years. Note that this is calculated from the day you were married until the day your divorce decree was signed by the judge rather than until the day you separated from your spouse. Next, you cannot be currently married, although your former spouse can be remarried and it will have no impact on your eligibility. Even if you did remarry after divorcing, if that second marriage subsequently ended due to either death or divorce, you are once again eligible to collect Social Security based on your first spouse’s employment. Finally, you must be at least sixty-two years old. If you wait to request these benefits until you are sixty-six years old, however, you will be eligible for a higher amount of benefits. There is no requirement that your former spouse must have attained these ages, only that you have at the time of your application.
The goal of allowing people to collect Social Security benefits based on a former spouse’s employment is to make sure that spouses who were stay-at-home parents or homemakers are still provided with an adequate retirement safety net. Accordingly, if the amount of benefits you would receive based on your own Social Security retirement is more than that you would receive by claiming benefits through your spouse, you will not be eligible to collect based on your former spouse’s employment. You should also note that there is no requirement that your former spouse actually be retired or collecting Social Security benefits before you apply, as long as you and your spouse have been divorced for at least two years.
If you have questions about how Social Security benefits work in the context of your divorce, you need to seek the advice of an attorney. Contact us today at (320) 299-4249 and let us answer your questions.