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Many misunderstand how divorce affects Social Security

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2020 | Blog, Divorce & High Asset Divorce |

Marital property refers to assets jointly owned by two spouses. Retirement accounts and income are assets subject to division and distribution during a divorce, which includes Social Security income when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. Connecticut family law allows the spouse who earns less to qualify for ongoing financial support via the ex-spouse’s earnings when certain conditions exist. Conditions do apply, however.

A decade of marriage earns Social Security Benefits

Older couples may wind up divorcing during or near their retirement years. The marriage must last for at least 10 years to qualify for Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s lifetime earnings. Although it might have ended years ago, that decade of marriage earns consideration for ongoing benefits based on the earner’s life earnings. If you remarried, however, all bets are off, and the newer spouse is the one whose lifetime earnings would matter.

In some cases, one person might have multiple former spouses drawing Social Security benefits based on his or her lifetime earnings. TV talk show host Johnny Carson had three of four former wives drawing Social Security benefits based on his very significant lifetime earnings. Three of those marriages lasted at least 10 years while the fourth ended prior to the decade mark.

Conditions for filing for Social Security benefits based on spousal earnings

In order for you to file for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings, you must be at least 62 years of age, and your ex must already be collecting program benefits. You also could qualify if the divorce became final more than two years ago and your ex qualifies for Social Security benefits for retirees or the disabled.

Any benefit amount that would qualify based on your former spouse’s earnings must be more than the benefit you would receive based on your own lifetime earnings. Whether you are the spouse who was the primary earner or the one who earned less, a divorce attorney may help make more sense of Social Security benefits and how they affect you.

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