How Do Social Security Benefits Change When Divorcing?

February 15, 2021

Most people hope that marriage will help them build a life together, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health—and especially when it’s time to retire. If you or your partner already receive or are set to receive Social Security benefits, you’re probably wondering how that gets divided between the two of you. Maybe your ex is deceased and you’re not sure what kind of benefits you’re entitled to. The good news is that you’re likely entitled to Social Security spousal benefits in Miami, FL. Read on to learn more details.

If your ex-spouse is still living

Social Security benefits are designed to benefit ex-spouses, even if they were stay-at-home partners while the other spouse worked. If your marriage lasted longer than 10 years, you’re over 62 years old, your ex qualifies for Social Security benefits and you’re currently unmarried, you should be able to collect spousal benefits, even after divorce.

The idea is that even if you weren’t working outside the home during the marriage, the two of you formed a partnership. Most stay-at-home partners provide value in other ways, including housework, raising children, cooking meals and doing maintenance around the house. Just because they weren’t paid by a third party doesn’t mean their hard work shouldn’t be rewarded.

If you worked during the marriage, you’ll collect whichever benefit is higher. You can’t collect both, but if you stand to receive more benefits using your ex-spouse’s credentials, you can choose that one over yours. Remember, if you start taking benefits before you’re fully qualified, the benefit amount will be reduced.

If your ex-spouse is deceased

If your ex-spouse is deceased, the rules are a little different. First, you need to be over 60, or over 50 and disabled. Second, your marriage needs to have lasted at least 10 years. Your own retirement benefits can’t be more than you’d claim under your ex-spouse (otherwise, you’d want to take those instead). Finally, if you remarry before age 60 (or 50, if you’re disabled), you can’t collect on spousal benefits—but if you remarry after that age, you can.

When there are minor or disabled children involved

You stand to receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work if there’s a minor or disabled child involved. For example, if you and your ex-spouse have a child under age 16, you can collect Social Security benefits until they turn 16. Similarly, if you’re caring for your ex-spouse’s disabled child, you’ll be able to collect benefits throughout the course of their disability. If they’re independent enough to leave home, your benefits through them will end. If they’re permanently disabled and living at home, you can continue to collect for the rest of your or their lifetime.

Understanding benefit changes after divorce can be complicated. When you’re going through the divorce process in Miami, FL, it’s important to talk to an experienced attorney so you know what to expect. Call the Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler to learn more about your options.

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