Because women generally spend less time in the workforce and earn less than men, they receive 24% less in Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. However, women depend more on Social Security than men do for their living expenses in retirement. The SSA reports that while men depend on Social Security for only 36% of their retirement income, women depend on it for 51% of their income.
Whether you are male or female, it is important for you to understand the rules for Social Security benefits if you are divorced. No matter when you were divorced, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record if you meet the following requirements:
- You must be unmarried
- You must be 62 or older
- Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security benefits
- Your own work record benefit must be less than the benefit you’d receive on your ex-spouse’s work record.
If your ex is still living and you meet the above requirements, you are eligible to receive either (1) your own benefit, or (2) up to half your ex’s full retirement age benefit, whichever is greater. If your ex’s 50% benefit is greater than your full benefit, be sure to file as soon as you reach full retirement age, since you will never be entitled to more than 50%, no matter what your age.
If your ex is deceased and you meet the requirements, you can receive a survivor benefit of 100% if you file a claim once you reach full retirement age. You can actually file a claim beginning at age 60, but if you do, you will only receive 71.5% of your ex’s benefit.
If you have been divorced more than once and each marriage meets the requirements, you can choose whichever ex’s benefit is the highest. In addition, if you are receiving benefits on a living ex’s work record and your other ex dies, you can switch from a spousal benefit to a survivor benefit.
It’s important to note that your ex does not have to begin collecting benefits before you can file for your own on his or her work record. However, you must have been divorced for at least two years to make a claim.
Finally, you should know that if you have an ex-spouse who is making a claim on your work record, it does not reduce your own Social Security benefits.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often prove crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.