Divorce and Social Security: What Are You Entitled To?

For many people, Social Security makes up a large percentage of their retirement income. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to navigate Social Security - especially if you’ve gone through a divorce. Let’s explore what divorcees can expect when it comes to Social Security benefits, and how that impacts their retirement planning. 

When Can You Take Social Security?

Most Social Security program participants can start collecting at age 62, However, benefits will be reduced if you take Social Security before your “full retirement age.” If you were born between 1943-1959, your full retirement age is approximately 66 - but depends on what year you were born. If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67. 

Many retirees choose to delay taking Social Security until their full retirement age. In some cases, retirees even choose to wait until age 70 to take their benefits, which is the last year your benefits will increase due to delaying them. Beyond age 70, you will receive the same benefit regardless of how long you postpone taking them.

Do You Qualify for Additional Benefits as a Divorcee?

If you are divorced, you may qualify for spousal benefits through your previous marriage. The stipulations to qualify are:

  • You’re currently divorced
  • You were in your previous marriage for 10+ years
  • You never remarried
  • You’re age 62 or older (to be able to legally collect benefits)
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security or disability benefits through the SSA

If you remarry, you usually can’t collect spousal benefits through the SSA unless your later marriage ends. This is important to note if you were married for 10 or more years, got divorced, remarried, but were divorced again in 9 years or less. Although you may not be able to collect spousal benefits from your second marriage, they could be available through your first. 

Will You Get Both Your SSA Benefit and Your Ex-Spouse’s?

In a word - no. The SSA will give you the benefits you qualify for on your own record first. However, if your ex-spouse’s record would result in a higher benefit, the SSA will give you an additional amount of funds each month. That way, the benefit you receive from your record plus the additional amount equals the higher benefit from your ex-spouse’s record. 

Ex-spousal benefits are typically equal to 50% of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit. If they pass away, you will be eligible to receive 100% of their benefit. 

Common Questions

There are many common questions about divorce and Social Security. Let’s review a few of them here:

Q: What if my spouse isn’t taking their Social Security benefit yet? Am I still eligible?

A: If you’ve been divorced for two years or more, yes.

Q: Will my ex-spouse know I’m taking Social Security on their record?

A: No, they will not know.

Q: Will taking a benefit from my ex-spouse’s record reduce the benefit they can collect?

A: No, your benefit and their benefit do not impact each other.

Social Security and Retirement

Do you have questions about how Social Security impacts your retirement? Need help building a retirement income strategy? Get in touch with us today! We’d love to talk to you about your retirement plan. 

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs, and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

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