Social Security and Divorce

Older Americans going through a divorce will be advised by their lawyer on how their Social Security benefits will be affected by their divorce.  However, those who divorced years ago may not have received this information, and as a result, may not be receiving all the benefits they deserve.

Some retired individuals do not realize they are able to collect on their ex-spouse’s earning history. Retired people can either collect benefits based on their own earning history, or collect on 50 percent of their former spouse’s benefits if it is greater than their own.  If the spouse is deceased, then one can collect 100 percent of his or her spouse or former spouse’s benefits.

There are rules that govern the collecting of a former spouse’s benefits. You must be at least 62 years old. The marriage must have lasted ten years or more and the person who is seeking benefits must currently be unmarried. If the former spouse is eligible for benefits but has not yet filed, the ex-spouse seeking benefits can only do so if the divorce took place at least two years prior.

There are several options available to those people who have not yet reached full retirement age.  When the former spouse is 62 years or older, the person seeking benefits can begin to receive a reduced benefit based on their former spouse’s earning record, provided that the divorce took place at least two years prior, even if the former spouse has not begun to collect on his or her benefits.  If more beneficial, the benefit seeker can always switch to collecting his own benefits in the future.

When a former spouse is deceased, then one can begin collecting a reduced widow(er)/divorced benefit at age 60, and then again, has the option to later on switch to his own benefits at full retirement age, if the amount is greater. If an individual has more than one ex-spouse, and the marriages lasted longer than 10 years, the person has the option to collect on either spouse’s history, but not both at the same time.

Family members who are assisting with the finances of elderly parents that have been divorced would benefit by requesting a Social Security benefits review on behalf of their parent to find out whether or not that parent may be eligible for an increase in benefits based on their former spouse’s earning history.

For more information on how your Social Security benefits may be affected by divorce, speak with an experienced family law attorney. If you are in Orlando or the Central Florida area, call The Llabona Law Group today.

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