Understand the Rules About Divorce and Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration, women receive 24% less in Social Security benefits than men do, the result of women typically having spent fewer years in the workforce and earning less than their male counterparts.

In addition to having a lower benefit, women also depend more on Social Security for their living expenses.  The SSA reports that women depend on Social Security for 51% of their total income, while men count on Social Security for only 36% of their income.

Whether you are male or female, it is important for you to understand the rules for Social Security benefits if you are divorced.  No matter when you were divorced, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record if you meet the following requirements:

  • You must be unmarried.
  • You must be 62 or older.
  • Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security benefits.
  • Your own work record benefit must be less than the benefit you’d receive on your ex-spouse’s work record.

If your ex is still living and you meet the above requirements, you are eligible to receive either (1) your own benefit, or (2) up to half your ex’s full retirement age benefit, whichever is greater. If your ex’s 50% benefit is greater than your full benefit, be sure to file as soon as you reach full retirement age, since you will never be entitled to more than 50%, no matter what your age.

If your ex is deceased and you meet the requirements, you can receive a survivor benefit of 100% if you file a claim once you reach full retirement age.  You can actually file a claim beginning at age 60, but if you do, you will only receive 71.5% of your ex’s benefit. 

If you have been divorced more than once and each marriage meets the requirements, you can choose whichever ex’s benefit is the highest.  In addition, if you are receiving benefits on a living ex’s work record and your other ex dies, you can switch from a spousal benefit to a survivor benefit.

For over 40 years, your legal team at Koenig|Dunne has counseled clients in thousands of initial consultations, and we are here to ensure that your initial consultation provides meaningful answers to these types of questions that matter the most to you.

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