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Social Security Spousal Benefits After Divorce

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Social Security spousal benefits play a significant role in ensuring financial stability for married couples during retirement. Understanding these benefits can help you maximize your retirement income and secure a better future for you and your spouse. In this article, we will explore Social Security spousal benefits, how they work, and how divorce can impact your eligibility.

What Are Social Security Spousal Benefits?

Social Security spousal benefits are payments made to the spouse of a worker who qualifies for Social Security benefits. These benefits are designed to provide financial support to spouses who may have lower lifetime earnings due to taking on caregiving roles or other responsibilities that limit their ability to work full-time.

Eligibility for Spousal Benefits

To qualify for Social Security spousal benefits, you must meet specific criteria:

  • Marriage Duration: You must be married to a worker eligible for Social Security benefits. If you are divorced, you must have been married for at least 10 years to be eligible.
  • Age Requirement: You can start receiving spousal benefits at age 62. If you wait until your full retirement age (FRA), however, you will receive a higher benefit amount.
  • Primary Earner’s Eligibility: The primary earner (your spouse) must already be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits for you to be eligible for spousal benefits.

Amount of Spousal Benefits

The amount of spousal benefits you receive depends on several factors:

  • Primary Earner’s Benefit: Spousal benefits can be up to 50% of the primary earner’s total retirement benefit amount.
  • Your Age: The amount will be reduced if you claim spousal benefits before your full retirement age. For example, if you claim at age 62, you might receive only 32.5% of your spouse’s benefit.
  • Your Benefits: If you are eligible for your own Social Security benefits, you will receive the higher benefit or your spousal benefit.

How Does Social Security Spousal Benefits Work?

Social Security spousal benefits are calculated based on your spouse’s work record. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how they work:

  • Application Process: You must apply for spousal benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can do this online, by phone, or in person at your local SSA office.
  • Benefit Calculation: The SSA calculates your spousal benefit based on your spouse’s primary insurance amount (PIA), the benefit they can receive at their full retirement age.
  • Combined Benefits: If you are eligible for both your and spousal benefits, the SSA will first pay your benefits. If your spousal benefits are higher, the SSA will supplement your benefit to match the spousal amount.

Coordination with Other Benefits

Your spousal benefits may be affected if your spouse is eligible for other benefits, such as a pension from a government job not covered by Social Security. This is known as the Government Pension Offset (GPO). Additionally, if you continue working while receiving spousal benefits before reaching full retirement age, your benefits may be reduced based on your earnings.

Can I Get Spousal Support After Divorce?

Divorce can impact your eligibility for Social Security spousal benefits, but under certain conditions, you may still qualify for these benefits.

Eligibility for Divorced Spouses

To receive spousal benefits as a divorced spouse, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Duration of Marriage: You must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.
  • Age Requirement: You must be at least 62 years old.
  • Marital Status: You must be currently unmarried.
  • Benefit Eligibility: Your ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security benefits.

Amount of Benefits for Divorced Spouses

As a divorced spouse, you are entitled to the same spousal benefits as if you were still married. This means you can receive up to 50% of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit. It’s important to note that your benefits as a divorced spouse will not affect the benefits your ex-spouse or current spouse receives.

Impact of Remarriage

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). You may, however, become eligible for spousal benefits based on your new spouse’s work record.

Practical Steps to Apply for Social Security Spousal Benefits

Applying for Social Security spousal benefits involves several steps:

  • Gather Required Documents: You will need your birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status, and your spouse’s Social Security number.
  • Complete the Application: You can apply online at the SSA’s website, by phone at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting your local SSA office.
  • Submit Additional Information: The SSA may request additional documents or information to process your application. Provide these promptly to avoid delays.
  • Receive Benefits: Once approved, you will receive your spousal benefits monthly. You can choose to accept payments via direct deposit or a paper check.

Contact Our Raleigh Divorce Attorneys for Help

Social Security spousal benefits provide crucial financial support for spouses with lower lifetime earnings. Understanding how these benefits work, eligibility criteria and the impact of divorce can help you make informed decisions about your retirement planning. If you have questions or need assistance with your Social Security spousal benefits, contact Marshall & Taylor PLLC online or at (919) 833-1040. Our team is here to help you navigate the complexities of Social Security and secure your financial future.