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Exploring Divorce and Social Security Benefits: What You Need to Know

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2023 | Social Security Disability

Marriage is not only an emotional bond but often an economic partnership, where spouses anticipate relying on each other’s income during retirement. Unfortunately, divorce can complicate this financial picture as assets are divided. Yet, when it comes to Social Security benefits, can a divorced woman claim a portion of her ex-husband’s benefits, similar to sharing a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account?

Claiming Social Security as a Divorced Spouse

The current rules do allow a divorced spouse to claim Social Security benefits based on their ex-partner’s work history. However, specific criteria must be met:

  • You are at least 62 years old.
  • You are currently single.
  • Your marriage to your ex lasted for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Your ex qualifies for Social Security benefits.
  • The benefit you’d receive based on your ex’s work history is higher than what you’d receive based on your own work history.
  • Meeting these conditions is essential to initiate a claim based on your ex-spouse’s earnings.

An interesting point is that your ex-husband doesn’t have to be retired for you to start receiving benefits. You can start as early as age 62, given that they qualify for benefits, and you have been divorced for at least two years.

Understanding Benefit Amounts

Claiming Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings might not always be the most financially advantageous choice. At full retirement age, you’ll receive only 50% of your ex’s benefit. This serves as the maximum amount you can access.

Remember, your personal benefit must be less than the amount you’d receive through your ex’s benefits. For instance, if your ex’s benefit is $1,600 monthly, your portion would be $800. And your own benefit must be less than $800. If your own work history entitles you to $900 a month, you cannot claim Social Security benefits based on your ex’s history.

In cases of your ex-spouse’s passing, you might be eligible for 100% as a survivor benefit. If you have multiple ex-husbands, you can choose the work history that provides the most advantageous benefits. Consult with our Tacoma divorce lawyer to explore these possibilities further.

Understanding Benefit Allocation

Unlike a 401(k) or IRA, Social Security benefits don’t involve dividing a fixed amount of money. Your ex’s benefits remain unaffected even if you claim a portion based on their history. Likewise, if your ex-husband remarries, his new spouse can also claim benefits based on his work history.

Consulting Our Tacoma Divorce Lawyer for Guidance

Social Security benefits are a significant financial component for retirees. Depending on your personal work history, claiming benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings could have substantial financial implications. Consult our expert attorneys to evaluate the timing and viability of making a Social Security claim. In tandem, working closely with legal counsel can help ensure equitable division of community property during divorce, setting you up for a strong financial future. Contact us to learn more.