Divorce and the end of a marriage among senior citizens here in New Jersey has been steadily increasing. Many seniors depend on Social Security benefits to fund part or all of their retirement. When a divorce occurs, many seniors wonder if they will still be able to collect their Social Security benefits. There are several things to think about when considering whether Social Security benefits will be available after a divorce.
First, divorced spouses can collect Social Security on their ex-spouse’s earnings record if they are at least 62 years of age, were married to the ex-spouse for 10 or more years, are currently unmarried and cannot receive a higher Social Security benefit based on their own work record. In this situation, the former spouse must be at least 62 years of age and the couple’s divorce must have been final for at least two years.
Also, the remarriage of an ex-spouse won’t have any effect on the other spouse’s ability to collect Social Security benefits, the ex-spouse’s retirement benefits or the new spouse’s Social Security benefits. A divorced individual can get up to 50 percent of an ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits. However, if divorced spouses are entitled to their own Social Security benefits based on their own work history, then the divorced spouses are entitled only to the larger of the two.
However, if a divorced individual remarries, he or she is no longer able to receive benefits based on his or her ex-spouse’s earnings record. If an ex-spouse dies, though, the surviving divorced spouse may be eligible for survivor benefits, which can be up to the full amount of what the ex-spouse was due in Social Security retirement benefits. Survivor benefits can be available to ex-spouses as soon as age 60, but if the ex-spouse remarries before the age of 60, he or she will not be eligible for these benefits.
Social Security benefits in divorce situations are available. Because of the complicated nature of Social Security law a person may find the assistance of an attorney to be extremely helpful. Spousal support, Social Security, division of assets and property division are all things that are complicated in divorce proceedings.
Source: Capital Gazette, “Savvy senior: How divorce can affect your Social Security,” Jim Miller, Nov. 17, 2013