Your Ex and Your Social Security Benefits

Digital Online Social Security Protection Office Concept

Your divorce may be long behind you but if your golden years are right in front of you, your ex may be looking for a piece of your Social Security retirement benefits.

Even if you have since remarried, your former spouse may be entitled to benefits based on your work record. In order to qualify for a portion of your benefits, the following requirements must be met:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried;
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older;
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on his or her own work is less than the benefit he or she would receive based on your work; and
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

If, based on their own earnings history, your former spouse is eligible for retirement benefits, the Social Security Administration will pay those benefits first. If your benefits are higher, he or she will get an additional sum based on your record so that the combination of benefits he or she receives equals that higher amount.

Even if you have yet to apply for your retirement benefits, your ex may still be able to start receiving them based on your record. If you are eligible to receive benefits, but have opted to delay applying for them (in order to get a larger benefit) and you’ve been divorced for at least two years, your ex can start drawing on those benefits.

If, however, your ex-spouse remarries, their right to obtain spousal benefits based on your record terminates. But, they can regain that right if their new spouse dies or they get divorced.

Key Point: What Your Ex Gets Doesn’t Affect What You Get from Social Security

While many aspects of a New York divorce, particularly dividing marital property, can be a zero-sum game (i.e., more for you means less for me), that is not the case with Social Security spousal benefits. The amount of benefits your former spouse gets has no effect on the amount of benefits you or your current spouse may receive. This means that you shouldn’t feel the need to revisit the battles of your past as you move into your post-divorce retirement future.

At Clement Law, we provide trusted counsel and effective advocacy to individuals in New York and New Jersey going through the transition of divorce. While thorough and aggressive, we help clients resolve their cases in novel and creative ways in order to minimize strife and reach a positive resolution. If you’d like to discuss any issues relating to divorce, please give us a call at (212) 683-9551 or fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.

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