Everything You Should Know About Divorce and Social Security Benefits
Each year, roughly 50 million people collect retirement benefits from Social Security. Since these funds are such a big part of most retirement plans, it’s worthwhile to consider them in your divorce. Understanding how divorce impacts Social Security makes it easier to create smart financial arrangements.
Can You Collect Spousal Benefits After a Divorce?
The most important thing to know is that divorce doesn’t change most of the basic Social Security rules. As long as you were married for at least 10 years and have not remarried, you can collect your Social Security spousal benefits just like you normally would. Because the funds that go into Social Security are part of your joint household effort, you are still entitled to receive the benefits after you divorce.
Just like married couples, you can collect up to 50% of the amount of Social Security your ex is eligible for. Your ex cannot keep you from withdrawing benefits based on their Social Security, and the benefits that you collect won’t affect any payments to your ex or anyone they choose to marry. However, you’ll still need to follow the typical eligibility requirements associated with Social Security withdrawals. The process can be confusing, so if you have questions about your Social Security benefits, your Pennsylvania divorce lawyer may be able to help.
Eligibility Details for Ex-spouses
If you meet the main requirement of having been married for at least 10 years and not remarrying, you’ll be able to withdraw from Social Security once a few other eligibility rules are met. First of all, your ex-spouse needs to be able to collect their Social Security funds. They don’t have to be withdrawing benefits yet, but they have to be old enough to withdraw their benefits. If your ex-spouse is eligible to withdraw benefits but has not started withdrawing them yet, you need to be divorced for at least two years.
The other key eligibility detail is that you have to be eligible for Social Security payments. This will mean you need to be at least 62 years old. Keep in mind that your payments will vary depending on how soon you start withdrawing. People who wait until the full retirement age to withdraw will get higher payments. Depending on when you choose to begin collecting benefits, you will get between 32.5% to 50% of the amount your ex gets.
Finally, it’s important to recognize that your own Social Security benefits may impact your ability to withdraw based on your ex’s Social Security. No one is eligible to withdraw two separate Social Security payments. Instead, Social Security will look at all benefits you’re eligible for and only pay you the highest amount. So if your solo benefits are higher than the spousal benefits you get through your ex, you will only get your solo Social Security benefits.
Will Social Security Affect Your Divorce?
Keep in mind that Social Security is different from most other retirement details. Unlike a 401(k), your divorce lawyer doesn’t need to negotiate Social Security withdrawals during your divorce mediation. You don’t need your ex’s permission to get Social Security, and the number of benefits you get won’t affect their withdrawals at all. The government won’t even notify them when you begin withdrawing your spousal benefits.
However, this doesn’t mean you should entirely forget about Social Security during your divorce. Pennsylvania law is all about finding a fair, equitable distribution of assets during divorce. If one spouse is entitled to more Social Security retirement benefits than the other, a 50/50 asset split isn’t always fair. This type of division could mean that one person ends up with a lot more money when they retire. In these cases, your lawyer might be able to help you reach an arrangement where you get additional assets to compensate for your lack of Social Security.
If you have any other questions about divorce and retirement benefits, Joanne Kleiner is here to help. We can assist you in negotiations or mediation and finding a solution that suits everyone’s needs. To learn more about our legal services, fill out our contact form or call us at 215-886-1266