If an individual was married for at least ten years, they may qualify for social security benefits based on their divorced spouse’s earnings record.
The spouse seeking benefits must meet the following requirements:
1) The marriage must have lasted ten years or longer.
2) The person must be unmarried.
3) The person must be 62 years or older.
4) The benefit the person is entitled to receive under their own record must be less than the benefit the
ex-spouse is entitled to receive.
5) The ex-spouse is entitled to receive social security disability or retirement benefits.
The amount of retirement benefit for an individual seeking benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earnings record is one-half of the amount the ex-spouse is entitled to receive at full retirement age.
If the individual seeking benefits on an ex-spouse’s account is remarried, they typically cannot receive benefits on their divorced spouse’s earnings records unless the marriage has ended (such as by divorce, death, or annulment).
If an ex-spouse has not yet applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, then the individual can receive benefits on the ex-spouse’s record if they have been divorced for at least two years.
If an individual qualifies for retirement benefits on his or her own record, Social Security will pay that amount first. But if the amount of benefit from the divorced spouse’s record is higher, the individual will receive a combination of benefits equaling that higher amount (reduced for age).
If an individual has reached full retirement age and is eligible for a spouse’s benefit and their own retirement benefit they may choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefits now and delay receiving their retirement benefits until a later date. If retirement benefits are delayed until a later date, there may be a higher benefit because of the Delayed Retirement Credits.
The amount of benefits an individual receives will have no effect on the amount of benefits the divorced spouse or their current spouse will receive.
See https://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm (last visited July 31, 2014), from which this information was gleaned.
It is important to keep these spouse’s benefits in mind, particularly in situations where a divorce is imminent but the marriage has lasted slightly less than ten years. If the divorce becomes inevitable, the parties may want to consider delaying finalization of the divorce until the marriage has lasted at least ten years. This is particularly so where one spouse is at an economic disadvantage.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.