Divorce rates among those over 50 are rising steadily. According to the Pew Research Center, divorce rates among baby boomers have tripled since the 1990s. Divorce is already stressful on its own – it involves a lot of changes and dividing things that most couples expected to share. That includes Social Security benefits.
While it’s not wise to expect to live off of your Social Security benefits alone – they only represent a fraction of your income – under certain circumstances, you could be eligible to collect Social Security benefits from a former spouse. Requirements change depending on whether the former spouse is alive or deceased, and are gender-neutral – meaning, it doesn’t matter if the primary earner was a man or a woman, rules are still the same.
Under what conditions am I eligible to collect from my ex’s Social Security benefits?
That depends on whether your former spouse is alive or dead, and whether you had any children.
If your former spouse is still alive…
You may collect Social security benefits from your spouse if they are higher than the benefits you would collect on your own. Other criteria to qualify for spouse’s benefits if your former spouse is still alive are listed by the AARP, and include:
- Being 62 years old or older
- Being single when you start collecting – you don’t qualify if you got married again after your divorce
- Your previous marriage must have lasted two years or longer
- You must be divorced from your former spouse for two years or longer.
It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter if your ex is remarried already; however, to qualify, you cannot be married again. Now, because you could be entitled to Social Security benefits from your former spouse before he or she even begins collecting, the distribution of Social Security benefits is an important part of any divorce conversation and future settlement. Our lawyers can help you navigate these questions when you are discussing the distribution of assets at the time of divorce. If you want to make sure this is addressed when you’re drafting divorce arrangements, make sure to let us know.
If your former spouse is deceased…
Some of the same conditions above still apply to you. There are a few variations, though:
- If you get remarried before you turn 60, you are not eligible to get part of your ex’s Social Security benefits. If you get remarried after you turn 60, then you are eligible. If you have a disability, the age threshold goes down to 50 years old.
- Your own age requirement is also reduced from 62 years to 60 years old.
If your former spouse is still working…
That affects how you may receive payments. You would have the same earnings limits, but benefits might be affected by how much your ex is still making through work. The Social Security Administration has benefits calculators that can help you determine what goes to each person in case of a divorce.
If you have children together…
You can receive Social Security benefits if you have a child or children that are under 16, whether the child is biological or adopted. Benefits would stop once the child turns 16. If the child has a disability that means you’re the child’s primary caretaker, you can continue to receive benefits beyond age 16, as long as the child is disabled. Under these circumstances, the length of the marriage is not relevant.
At Beckman Steen & Lundstrom, P.A., we understand that during a divorce, it can be difficult to stay aware of every rule applicable to your case. In this difficult time, our family law attorneys are here to guide you and support you through the decision-making process and ensure your interests are protected every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Benefits Planner: Retirement | Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse | Social Security Administration. (n.d.). The United States Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/yourdivspouse.html
Benefits Planner: Retirement | If You Are Divorced | Social Security Administration. (n.d.). The United States Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html
Brockman, K. (2020, January 30). Divorced? You Could Be Owed Extra Social Security Benefits. The Motley Fool. https://www.fool.com/retirement/2020/01/30/divorced-you-could-be-owed-extra-social-security-b.aspx#
Can I Collect Social Security From My Ex-Spouse? (n.d.). AARP. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/ex-spouse-social-security/
Divorce rates up for Americans 50 and older, led by Baby Boomers. (2017, March 9). Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/09/led-by-baby-boomers-divorce-rates-climb-for-americas-50-population/
Hinden, S. (n.d.). Divorce and Social Security Spousal Benefits. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2016/divorced-social-security-benefits.html