How Does Divorce Affect Social Security Benefits?

A divorce can have an impact on your Social Security benefits in multiple ways. Below we outline several of the consequences that divorce might have for your benefits and your ex-spouse’s benefits.

Retirement Benefits Based on Your Ex-Spouse’s Work Record

If you and your spouse were married for at least 10 years, you can receive retirement benefits based on his or her work record provided that you are unmarried and at least 62. Vice versa holds true as well, as your ex-spouse can obtain benefits on you work record. If either of you does this, it does not affect the other spouse’s benefits in any way. Additionally, you can only receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record if those benefits would be greater than the amount that you would receive based on your own record.

Disability benefits following a divorce

Because disability benefits are a source of income, they may figure into the calculation that you and your ex-spouse will have to make when it comes to settling your affairs as the result of a divorce. The case law varies from state to state – some consider disability benefits as separate property (not entitled to division come divorce time), some consider them marital property (subject to division), and some states consider them marital property depending on what the spouse does with the benefits (for example, they could be marital property if used to contribute to a retirement account or if used to purchase marital assets).

Divorce and survivors benefits

If you and your ex-spouse were married at least 10 years, you can receive survivors benefits as the surviving divorced spouse if your ex-spouse passes away. The only exception to the 10 year marriage requirement is if you are caring for a disabled child who is receiving benefits based off of your ex-spouse’s record. Also, if you remarried, that could have an impact on your ability to receive survivors benefits. For example, if you remarried before 60, you will not be able to receive survivors benefits for your ex-spouse.

Were you receiving Social Security benefits at the time of your divorce? What impact did the divorce have for you and your ex-spouse?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys


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