Social Security Spousal Benefits After Divorce

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Social security benefits provide support for retirees to help them enjoy their retirement. While many people know about Social Security retirement benefits, fewer realize how these benefits can extend to spouses and ex-spouses. Whether you’ve spent years working outside the home or supporting your family in other ways, Social Security spousal benefits ensure that you and your loved ones have a more secure financial future.

How Does Social Security Spousal Benefits Work?

Social Security spousal benefits for ex-spouses operate under specific rules designed to provide financial support to individuals who were married for at least 10 years and subsequently divorced. There are several eligibility requirements for obtaining these benefits, including:

  • Age Requirement – You must be at least 62 years old to claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s record. If you claim benefits before your full retirement age (FRA), however, you’ll only be able to receive a reduced benefit amount.
  • Current Martial Status – You must be unmarried to claim benefits on an ex-spouse’s record. If you remarry, you generally cannot claim benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your subsequent marriage ends either by death, divorce, or annulment.
  • Ex-Spouse Eligibility – Your ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. They do not need to have started receiving their benefits for you to claim spousal benefits, provided you have been divorced for at least two years.
  • Duration of Marriage – To qualify for Social Security spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse’s record, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years. This duration is a critical requirement, and if you were married for less than 10 years, you are not eligible for spousal benefits on their record.

Calculating Spousal Benefits

To effectively plan for and calculate spousal benefits, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Benefit Amount – You can receive up to 50% of your ex-spouse’s full retirement age (FRA) benefit. This percentage is calculated based on what your ex-spouse would receive at their FRA, not necessarily the amount they receive if they delay or take early retirement.
  • Impact of Timing – If you claim spousal benefits before your own FRA, your benefit amount will be permanently reduced. The reduction is calculated based on the number of months before your FRA that you start receiving benefits.
  • Coordination with Own Benefits – If you are eligible for your own Social Security and spousal benefits, you will receive the higher of the two amounts, not both simultaneously.
  • Multiple Ex-Spouses – If you have been married more than once to different individuals for at least 10 years each, you may choose which ex-spouse’s record to claim benefits on, depending on which provides a higher benefit. You cannot claim benefits on both records simultaneously, however.

Can I Get Spousal Support after Divorce?

It is possible to receive both spousal support (alimony) and Social Security spousal benefits simultaneously, though each type of support serves different purposes and comes from various sources. Critical differences include:

  • Payment Source – Alimony is a financial payment from one spouse to another as part of a divorce settlement or court order. Social Security spousal benefits are payments made by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • Age Requirements – You must be at least 62 to qualify for Social Security spousal benefits, whereas there is no age requirement for receiving spousal support.
  • Payment Amount – The maximum amount of Social Security spousal benefits an ex-spouse can receive is 50% of the primary worker’s benefit amount, and seeking benefits before an individual’s full retirement age can impact the benefit amount. For spousal support agreements, several factors, such as marriage duration, the income of both spouses, and each spouse’s ability to work, play a role in determining the payment amount.

How to File for Social Security Spousal Benefits after Divorce

Social Security Spousal Benefits After Divorce Image 2Filing for Social Security spousal benefits is a time-consuming process involving several steps, including:

  • Understanding Eligibility Requirements—Determine if you qualify for Social Security spousal benefits. This includes meeting the age and marriage duration requirements.
  • Collecting Required Documentation—To file for benefits, you must provide the necessary paperwork to prove your identity and marriage, including your marriage certificate, divorce decree, and ex-spouse’s Social Security numbers (SSNs).
  • Filing for Benefits – You must apply through the SSA to claim Social Security spousal benefits after divorce.
  • Timing of Application – Based on age and marital status, you can apply for spousal benefits as soon as you are eligible. To avoid delays in receiving benefits, you should use them as early as possible once you meet the eligibility criteria.

Contact a Social Security Attorney

At Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P., we excel at helping San Antonio families understand and maximize their Social Security spousal benefits. Whether you’re planning for retirement, dealing with divorce, or have questions about eligibility, our experienced family law attorneys are here to guide you at every step. Don’t leave your financial future to chance. Contact us online or call us today at (210) 349-9933.

Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. 12000 Huebner Rd #200 San Antonio, TX 78230 Telephone: (210) 349-9933 Fax: (210) 349-9988
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