By Robert L. Mues   |   May 21st, 2016

Divorce Final? How To Maximize Your Social Security Retirement Benefit By Utilizing The Divorced Spouse Benefit

social security retirement benefit divorceYour divorce is finalized!  It is over and done, and you have moved on with your life.  The assets, monetary accounts, retirement accounts, and the like all have been divided per the divorce decree.  With that divorce decree in hand, you ex-spouse is no longer entitled to any future benefit you may receive, and that goes the same for you.  However, there is one benefit you want to keep in mind when you are approaching retirement age.  That benefit is the ability to collect Social Security Retirement on your ex-spouses record even if he or she has remarried!  Like all government benefits there are some requirements you must meet in order to collect under your ex-spouse’s work record.

This benefit, entitled divorced spouse benefit, requires the following:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • You are currently unmarried;
  • You are 62 years or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work record.

If all these requirements are met, than you are entitled to an amount equal to one half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.  The best part of this benefit is that you may collect on the benefit even if your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits.  The one catch is that your ex-spouse be able to qualify for the retirement benefits and you must wait for at least two years before you apply for the divorced spouse benefit.

Alright, now that we have the requirements out of the way, let’s talk about how to maximize your Social Security Retirement benefit by utilizing the divorced spouse benefit.  The Social Security Administration breaks down collecting retirement benefits and divorced spouse benefits on whether you were born before or after January 2, 1954.

For those people who have reached full retirement age and were born before January 2, 1954, the option to “restrict filing” and essentially delay the collection of their own retirement benefit may be possible.  If you opt to take this route, you can receive your ex-spouse’s benefit and postpone receiving your retirement benefit.  This will allow you to accumulate your retirement account and let it reach its maximum potential.

If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists.  If you file for one benefit, you will basically be filing for all retirement and/or divorced spousal benefits.  However, if you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spouse’s benefits, Social Security will pay you your retirement benefit first.  But, if the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will receive an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals the higher amount.

Choosing to delay collecting your own benefit has its obvious possible advantages.  Research has shown that typically, benefits increase approximately 8% a year between the ages of 66 and 70.  So, if a person has the option of collecting their divorced spouse benefit so that their own personal retirement benefit can grow until they reach the age of 70, they could potentially be collecting a significantly larger amount in the long run.  As a side note, the divorced spouse benefit does not increase after you reach full retirement age, so there is no benefit to waiting to collect it beyond that date.

Some other important points to keep in mind are that if you continue to work and receive social security benefits, the earnings will be limited.  Additionally, should you choose to remarry, you are generally not entitled to collect the benefit based on your ex-spouse’s work record unless the subsequent marriage ends (either by divorce, annulment or death).

Need Answers To Social Security Retirement Benefit And Divorce?

If you or someone you know are contemplating divorce and are concerned about how it will affect your social security benefits, contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys today to help you make a fully informed decision and maximize your potential retirement benefit!

For further investigation, please visit the following Social Security Administration link.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Social Security Benefits Can Be Maximized Post Final Divorce Decree

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