Before diving into the effects of divorce on these benefits, it makes sense to do a quick review on the basics of the benefits themselves.
YOUR WORK BENEFITS: Your benefits will depend on how much you earned over your working career and the age at which you apply for benefits. At age 62, each year’s earnings are tallied and indexed for inflation. The highest 35 years of earnings are totaled and indexed for inflation then averaged to compute your “AIME.” This amount is divided by bend points to determine your PIA (primary insurance amount) which you will receive and adjust with a cost of living adjustment over time. If you apply early, you will receive a percentage of your PIA depending on the month of retirement. To calculate your benefits, you can go here and click on “estimate your retirement benefits” or click here.
YOUR SPOUSAL BENEFITS: Your spousal benefit is half the earner’s PIA if started at full retirement age. You will receive a reduction in benefits if you apply before age 66. To qualify, the primary worker must have filed for benefits (but can suspend to build delayed credits — for now!) The spouse must be at least 62 for a reduced benefit or 66 for a full benefit. Spousal benefits include survivor benefits based on the age the deceased spouse originally claimed his benefits and the age at which the survivor claims the benefit. If a spouse dies while both are receiving benefits, the survivor may switch to the higher survivor benefit.
YOUR DIVORCE BENEFITS:
Now that you have some sense of Social Security benefits, you can consider how a divorce affects them.
– Full Spousal Benefits After Divorce: You qualify for FULL spousal benefits after divorce if the marriage lasted 10 years or more, the person receiving the benefit is single, the ex-spouse is at least 62 years old, and qualifications based on spouse’s application and/or age are met.
– Remarrying and Spousal Social Security Benefits: If you are remarried then you no longer qualify for the former spouse’s benefits. Divorced-spouse benefits stop upon remarriage of the spouse collecting benefits. They do NOT stop upon the remarriage of the primary worker spouse.
– Multiple Exes: More than one ex-spouse can receive spousal benefits on the same worker’s record. To my knowledge, the Social Security Administration has not yet enacted an ex-spouse cap. It thereby allows an unlimited number of people to marry a high wage earner (one at a time, of course!) and draw on their high PIA. (Whether this is a reward or punishment for hard work and high contribution to the Social Security Fund is a matter of opinion!) Benefits paid to one ex-spouse do not affect those paid to the worker, the current spouse, or other ex-spouses.
– Private Pay: The worker will not be notified that the ex-spouse has applied for benefits.
– Survivor Benefits: The divorced spouse survivor benefit is available if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. However, if the surviving spouse remarries before age 60 (or 50 in disability cases) the benefits end.
One of the many reasons to consult an attorney during your divorce is to get the rundown on what your options are for Social Security and how best to protect them in court, in mediation, in a Separation Agreement and in the years to come. For more information about how your divorce can impact your Social Security benefits, contact Andersen Law PC today at 720-922-3880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.