Divorce and the Implications for Social Security Benefits

The financial impact of divorce extends beyond alimony and child support to include potentially significant shifts in Social Security benefits. Implications can vary considerably based on how long the couple was married. In many cases, however, ex-spouses are eligible for benefits that exceed what they would have received based on their own income. Keep reading to learn if you’re eligible and how much you can expect to receive if you qualify.

Am I Eligible?

As a divorced Social Security recipient, you are eligible for your former spouse’s benefits if you were married over ten years; if you are currently at least 62 years old; and if you have entitlements that do not reach the value of your former spouse’s Social Security or disability benefits. If you remarry, you will no longer be entitled to your former spouse’s benefits, unless you remarry after age 60, or the second marriage ends in annulment, divorce, or death.

How Benefits Work

If you have determined that you are eligible for Social Security benefits through your ex-spouse, you can expect to receive half of the value of that person’s retirement benefits. Your eligibility will not impact the value of your ex’s benefits, nor will it alter benefits for your ex’s current spouse. If your ex fails to apply for retirement benefits, you are still eligible to do so.

Benefits for Surviving Divorced Spouses

If your former spouse passed away after your divorce, you may be eligible for the same benefits that a widow or widower would receive. As with the benefits outlined above, you must have been married for at least ten years, unless you are currently caring for a child under sixteen who you had with your former spouse. If you are counted as a widow or widower, your benefit may be up to 100 percent of your former spouse’s benefit amount. In rare cases, the surviving spouse (or ex-spouse) may also receive a special lump sum payment of $255.

As you plan for the immediate changes that divorce will bring about, you should also keep retirement in mind. Learn more about the long-term impact of divorce.

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