How divorce can affect Social Security benefits

Married individuals in California who reach retirement age can collect up to 50% of an eligible spouse’s full Social Security benefits. This benefit is available even if one spouse has little or no income of their own. Furthermore, getting divorced doesn’t necessarily mean an end to Social Security based on a former spouse’s record.

If a divorced spouse was married for at least 10 years, they may still be able to get Social Security benefits on their ex’s record. In order to do this, the former spouse must be 62 or older, have an ex who’s eligible for benefits and have benefits of their own that are less than what the ex gets. Even if an eligible ex hasn’t applied for Social Security, the former spouse may still be able to collect from their account. This is also true if the other spouse remarries.

Normally, remarriage means a spouse can no longer collect on an ex’s record. But a remarried spouse 62 or older may be able to get part of their new spouse’s benefits if they are also receiving Social Security payouts. And if a new marriage ends because of annulment, death or divorce, it could be possible to collect on the first spouse’s record again. Also, if someone has multiple spouses and marriages that have lasted 10 years or more, they could potentially collect on the former eligible spouse’s record offering the highest benefits.

Social Security benefits generally don’t have a significant impact on marital assets division. Nevertheless, a divorce lawyer may consult with a financial advisor to help a client eligible for retirement benefits determine what kind of assets they’ll have access to once the marriage is officially over. If a lower-earning spouse isn’t able to live on Social Security payouts alone, spousal support may be sought.