If you’re nearing retirement age as you divorce, your financial situation as you go back to being a single person is likely one of your primary concerns. You’ll be counting in part on Social Security retirement benefits to provide at least some of your income as you get farther into your 60s.
What about Social Security spousal benefits? Will you lose those if you’re divorced?
People often misunderstand how these spousal benefits work
There’s a lot of confusion about just what Social Security spousal benefits are. Not nearly as many people claim them as decades ago when they were established. At that time, most wives didn’t have jobs outside the home or earn an income. Therefore, spousal benefits were the only way they could get retirement income from Social Security.
Spousal benefits are approximately half of the benefits the person whose earnings record they’re based on will get themselves. If your own Social Security retirement benefits – those based on your own earnings record – total more than the amount you’d receive in spousal benefits, you’d get your benefits rather than spousal benefits. That’s because Social Security pays whichever is greater. Since many spouses now earn similar incomes, the spousal benefits aren’t claimed as often.
When can a divorced spouse claim them?
What if you largely remained out of the workforce during your marriage or always earned considerably less than your spouse and would qualify for spousal benefits if you remained married? You can still claim them if you’re divorced as long as you were married for a minimum of ten years and are not remarried.
Some divorcing spouses want to fight their husband or wife’s attempt to seek spousal benefits when they’re old enough. That’s based on another common misunderstanding of spousal benefits. They have no effect on the Social Security retirement benefits a person’s entitled to based on their own earnings record.
If Social Security retirement benefits are in the not-too-distant future for you, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about them so that you can work to seek the property division, spousal support and other agreements that will help you enjoy your next act without serious financial worries.