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Social Security After Divorce: Understanding Your Benefits

With later-life divorce, as I mentioned, there is a need to protect wealth and assets on into retirement. Another key issue is obtaining health insurance after divorce. For clients who are starting out again at 55 or 65, understanding all of the benefits that are available is critically important.

Social Security benefits are not often discussed between spouses, but should be — especially in long-term marriages. For almost all American workers, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides retirement benefits based on your lifetime work record. Once you have enough work credits, your benefit amount is determined by your date of birth, earnings and the date you claim benefits.

Social Security benefits for a divorced spouse

If divorced, you may be able to claim Social Security benefits on the work record of your former spouse. If you are a homemaker or spouse who spent years out of the work force providing childcare, your social security payment will be less than that of your spouse, who remained employed. The opportunity to claim a higher social security payment, based on the work record of your ex-spouse, is important and depends on the following:

  • Marriage lasting at least 10 years
  • Being age 62, or older, and unmarried
  • Having a work record entitlement that is less than that of your former spouse

Payments made to you do not diminish the benefits paid to your former spouse. And, if eligible, you can also receive benefits as a surviving divorced spouse, if your former spouse passes away fully vested.

If contemplating divorce and nearing your ten-year wedding anniversary, think about holding off filing until you or your spouse qualifies for divorced-spouse benefits. In the same way that couples sometimes work out health insurance issues during divorce, social security benefits are important to address together.

Understanding assets and benefits at any age is important. Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. is the largest divorce and family law firm on Long Island. If you have a question about divorce or property division, contact us.

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