Part 1: You May Qualify for Social Security from Your Ex-Spouse

Even years after the ink dries on your divorce settlement, you could be leaving money on the table: your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits.

Access to your former spouse’s benefits does not have to be itemized in your divorce agreement, but there are basic qualifications that must be met. Even if your divorce agreement stipulates you won’t make a Social Security claim, you still can. The Social Security Administration generally does not enforce such provisions.

The access to benefits works both ways. If you had the higher income, your ex can claim Social Security benefits based on your earnings.

Qualifying for Your Ex’s Social Security

The increase in older spouses dissolving their marriages has been consistent for the last three decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people who have been divorced is highest among those ages 55 to 64. How long a marriage lasts determines if a spouse is eligible to receive Social Security benefits on their former spouse’s work history.

You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits based on your ex’s work record if the following is true:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • You have not remarried.
  • You and your ex-spouse are age 62 or older.
  • Your divorce was finalized at least two years prior or your ex is already claiming retirement benefits.
  • The benefit that you would receive based on your ex’s work record is higher than the benefit you would receive based on your own work record.

Determining How Much Benefit You’ll Receive

When you meet the eligibility criteria, the Social Security Administration compares the amount you are eligible for under your own work history with the benefit based on your ex’s earnings. You will receive whichever benefit is highest.

When you begin claiming the benefit affects how much you will receive. If you wait until full retirement age, your spousal benefit is equal to 50% of your ex’s full retirement benefits (or disability benefit).

The maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit in 2022 is $3,345 per month for those who wait until full retirement age to begin drawing benefits. Based on 50%, a spousal benefit maxes out at about $1,672.

Your monthly benefit will be reduced if you begin receiving the benefit before reaching full retirement age. The reduction happens whether the benefit is based on your own earnings or your ex-spouse’s record. Benefits based on your own work record will increase if you begin claiming your benefit after full retirement age. The benefit increases 8% each year past full retirement up until age 70.

Full retirement age is calculated as follows:

  • Full retirement age (FRA) is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954.
  • For those born in 1955 or later, full retirement age increases by two months every year from 1955 to 1960.
  • Full retirement age is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

Working & Receiving Social Security

You can work and still receive Social Security benefits. If you earn less than $19,560 in 2022, no Social Security benefit will be withheld. If you are under FRA and earn more than $19,560, your benefit may be reduced. If you were born Jan. 2, 1960, or later, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn over the threshold.

If you reach full retirement age during 2022, $1 will be deducted from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $51,960 until the month you reach FRA.

After you reach FRA, you can earn as much as you want without any withholding.

Understand All Implications Before Filing for Divorce

Social Security is one more aspect that must be analyzed when considering filing for divorce. If your marriage is almost to the 10-year mark, you may consider waiting to file, especially if you are the lower-wage earner. Safeguarding the right to apply for benefits under your ex-spouse’s work record may be important.

Our legal team at the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC has a deep understanding of all aspects of divorce. Retirement accounts, pensions, and investments are important financial elements in crafting a fair divorce agreement. We can guide you through each scenario to determine how to best protect your best interests.

Our lawyers work to mitigate any negative impact on your future. Our goal is to provide you with a fresh start to begin your next chapter. Schedule a no-cost consultation to learn more. Contact us online or call (845) 605-4330.

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