After a divorce, future entitlements or payments may seem like a distance forethought or wishful thinking. However, in certain cases a spouse may be entitled to a former spouse’s Social Security benefits. Discuss the necessary requirements an individual must meet in order to retain these benefits after a divorce with an experienced attorney.
A former spouse can receive benefits from their ex spouse’s Social Security benefits record if: the marriage lasted 10 or more years, the requesting spouse is unmarried, and the requesting spouse is 62 years or older. The factor that many individuals do not understand is the marital status of the parties. The marital status of the non-requesting spouse is irrelevant to the benefits afforded to the ex-spouse requesting the Social Security benefits. However, the requesting spouse must be single at the time they are requesting these benefits. Therefore, even if the requesting spouse remarried after the divorce, but then the subsequent marriage ended in death, annulment or divorce, and therefore the requesting spouse is currently unmarried when applying for the benefits, they may still be entitled to receive benefits from their former spouse’s Social Security.
If the former spouse has not applied for Social Security benefits but is still entitled to them, the requesting spouse may receive benefits if divorced for at least two years. Further, the requesting spouse may still apply for benefits even if the former spouse has not yet retired, if divorced for at least two years. The requesting spouse may also still qualify for benefits after a divorce if the former spouse passed away, under widow’s benefits.
The amount received by the requesting spouse depends upon their own work and benefits in comparison to the former spouse’s benefits. Therefore, if the requesting spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits on their own, that amount will be paid first. If the former spouse’s benefits are higher, than the requesting spouse’s, the requesting spouse will receive an additional amount to combine with their own benefits to equal the higher benefit amount. However, if the requesting spouse’s individual benefits are of higher value than the former spouse’s, the requesting spouse will receive no extra benefits. Consequently, the requesting spouse will not receive double benefits, only the benefit of whichever amount is higher is allotted. Finally, the amount of benefits the requesting spouse receives on a former spouse’s record has no effect on the amount of benefits the former spouse will receive.
Social Security benefits alone can be a daunting and confusing task. When compiled with requesting benefits under a former spouse, this process can cause a great deal of headache. Therefore, during your divorce, discuss the options you may have for future Social Security benefits with your attorney to ensure you are properly informed of your rights.
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