Most young couples marry in full anticipation of growing old together. But life is complicated. Sometimes, as couples grow older, they grow apart rather than together. And, sometimes, they divorce. Among the many things that must be considered in a divorce, it is important to think about the future—including retirement in general, and Social Security benefits in particular.
What effect, if any, does divorce have on your Social Security benefits?
In order to answer this question, first we must consider the benefits to which married persons are entitled under Social Security. Married persons have the right to apply for:
benefits based on their own contributions to Social Security over their lifetimes;
spousal benefits based on their spouse’s contributions to Social Security, so long as they are at least 62 years of age and their spouse is receiving (or is eligible to receive) … Read More »
Where a couple was married 10 or more years and then divorce, each party will be paid the greater of his/her own Social Security benefit or a spousal benefit. Spousal benefits generally are equal to 50% of the primary wage earner’s benefit. The gender of the spouse is irrelevant, although historically this has had a greater impact on ex-wives.
It is important to understand that there is no impact on the primary wage earner’s benefit. If an ex-wife chooses spousal benefits based on her marriage to a former husband, it will not reduce the amount the ex-husband receives in Social Security.
For an example: assume Suzy and John are married over 10 years, then divorce. Suzy then marries Edward, stays married to him for over 10 years, then divorces Edward as well.
At retirement, Suzy will be entitled to choose the greatest of … Read More »