Divorce in Retirement: Does Divorce Impact Social Security Benefits?

If your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you will likely continue to receive your share of the Social Security spousal benefits. You would not get your ex's benefits if you were married for less than 10 years. Getting remarried and other factors can change your benefits.

Like changes that happen when you get married, you'll want to pay attention to how divorce and remarriage affect your Social Security and retirement planning. For instance, you must report a name change to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for your earnings to be correctly reported, while remarriage will affect survivor benefits.

It's not too complicated, but ensure you understand your rights and take care of them immediately during a divorce.

How Much Social Security Does an Ex-Spouse Get?

This is essential to know during your divorce financial planning. You must get your spouse's or ex-spouse's Social Security retirement benefits statement to understand what exists in their retirement savings. This is especially important if you have no earnings record or work history.

When you reach full retirement age (FRA), you will get unreduced or full benefits and 50% of the retirement savings account. If you have your own work record benefits, you will typically receive that amount first. You will also get money from your spouse's record if your spouse has a higher benefit.

The full retirement age is 67 for anyone born after 1960. You can ask to receive Social Security benefits as young as 62 years old, but you'll get a lower amount. You might be eligible for delayed retirement credits if you or your spouse delay your retirement age. These increase your monthly benefit.

Can You Continue to Collect Social Security After Divorcing Your Spouse?

You can only collect Social Security after divorcing your spouse if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years
  • You have not remarried*
  • Your ex is eligible to collect Social Security or disability benefits
  • Your own retirement benefits are less than your ex-spouse's benefits
  • You are 66 years of age or older
  • You have been divorced for at least two years

*Getting remarried after divorce will usually cancel out your previous spouse's benefits.

How Is Social Security Divided During a Divorce?

Social Security can be divided in many ways. Still, it is typical for each spouse to get 50% of the retirement account. Social Security rules may apply, or you may qualify for a higher amount or more benefits. Divorcees need to talk with an attorney to understand divorced spouse benefits.

A delayed retirement can change when you get your benefits and how much they will be. Delayed retirement is better than early retirement, so your gifts are not reduced.

What Happens If I Remarry?

Generally, you cannot collect benefits on your ex-spouse's work record unless your second marriage ends by annulment, divorce, or death. Your SSI benefits payments may change based on your new spouse's record. If your new spouse is collecting benefits and you would receive a higher amount than what you qualify for based on your work record, you will receive the higher amount.

Can You Collect Social Security From a Deceased Spouse?

Yes, you will get their full retirement benefit if your ex-spouse dies. You will receive Social Security when you retire at 62 or older. Delaying your Social Security until 65 or 67 ensures you get the total amount (retiring before 67 can result in up to 15% fewer benefits until you reach age 67).

How Divorce Affects Survivors' Benefits

If your divorced spouse dies, you can receive benefits as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. But you won't have to meet the length-of-marriage requirement if you care for your deceased ex-spouse's children younger than 16 or disabled. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who is 60 or older will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving benefits. Remember that your ex-spouse's family won't be notified if you apply for survivor benefits through the SSA. Also, there's no limit to how many people may apply for benefits from a single Social Security account.

How Remarriage Affects Survivors' Benefits

You can't receive survivor's benefits if you remarry before 60. If you remarry after age 60 (50 if disabled), you can still collect benefits on your former spouse's record.

When you reach age 66, you may get retirement benefits from your new or current spouse's record if it is higher. Your remarriage would not affect the benefit amount being paid to your children.

Changing Your Name on Your Social Security Card

If you change your name, tell Social Security and your employer. This will ensure that your employer reports your earnings correctly and that Social Security records them.

You can get a new card from Social Security with your new name. You'll need to provide a copy of your birth certificate, final adoption decree, or other suitable documentation to prove your date of birth. You'll need a U.S. driver's license, state I.D., or passport to verify your identity.

Concerned About Divorce, Remarriage, and Social Security? Talk to a Lawyer

You can learn more about Social Security at SSA.gov. A divorce can affect many aspects of your life, even after death. Understanding the legal aspects of marriage dissolution, from retirement benefits to changing your name on your Social Security card, is essential.

Let an experienced family law attorney in your state help you make the best decisions about divorce, remarriage, and Social Security — putting your mind at ease.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
  • Legal advice is critical to protect your interests in a contested divorce
  • Divorce lawyers can help secure fair custody/visitation, support, and property division

An attorney is a skilled advocate during negotiations and court proceedings. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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