5 Questions on How Divorce Affects Social Security Benefits

By Marc Shaffer

An immediate division of assets is not the only financial consideration that should occur when divorcing. You should also consider the impact of a divorce on your Social Security benefits and the rights of each spouse to those future benefits. Consider some of these questions we typically hear from divorced spouses:

1. Are there restrictions for collecting on my ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits?

Yes – Not all divorced spouses will have access to their ex’s benefits. The length of time you were married, your age, and your current marital status all affect your ability to collect on your ex’s record.

2. How much am I entitled to as a divorced partner?

If you do qualify to collect on your ex’s benefits, you are entitled to the same amount as if you were still married. If you begin collecting benefits at your full retirement age, you are entitled to half of your ex’s full retirement age benefit. You can also choose to collect benefits before your full retirement age at a reduced rate. Choosing to collect before your full retirement age will affect your own retirement benefit amount (you generally cannot claim your ex’s benefits early and let your benefit continue to grow).

3. How much am I entitled to if I remarry?

According to the Social Security Administration, “If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).”

4. What if I want to collect a benefit but my ex has not yet applied for benefits?

You do not have to wait to collect on your ex’s record if they haven’t already applied for retirement benefits. As long as they will qualify for benefits, you can receive benefits on their record (as long as you have been divorced for at least two years).

5. What if I am ready to collect on my ex’s benefit but still want to work?

In this case, the retirement benefit earnings limit will still apply to you. The Social Security Administration has an earnings test calculator so you can see how your earnings may affect your benefit payments.

There are many ways to claim Social Security benefits and many scenarios that may affect your benefit amount. Understanding your eligibility and the benefits you are entitled to can help you maximize your Social Security benefit strategy. If you are confused on how Social Security impacts your financial situation and would like to incorporate Social Security into your overall plan, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on April 22, 2015 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.