Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima
Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima


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  4.  | The unwritten Spousal Social Security Benefit of divorce

The unwritten Spousal Social Security Benefit of divorce

Even if it is not written into your divorce paperwork, there may be an added benefit you can collect on once you reach retirement age, if you qualify. So long as you were married for at least 10 years, both parties are at least 62 years of age and you have not remarried, you may qualify for the spousal portion of your ex’s social security.

While this benefit was originally intended for wives, who stayed home and depended on their husband’s income, it has since been expanded, to all spouses so long as they meet the factors. The qualifying spouse may even have been in the workforce themselves. However, the benefit may be decreased taking into account the lower earning spouse’s benefit. For example, if Jack and Diane, who have been married for 12 years, get divorced and Jack’s social security benefit is $2,000, Diane’s spousal portion would be $1,000 if she had no social security of her own. However, if she had a social security benefit of $800, then she would only receive $200 from Jack, with the total still $1,000 a month (social security would “deduct” the benefit she would get from Jack from her overall benefit). Jack’s social security would remain the same at $2,000, not impacted by how much Diane receives.

If Diane remarries, she would not be able to claim any portion of Jack’s social security. However, if Diane’s subsequent husband passes away and had a lesser social security benefit than Jack, Diane could opt to take the spousal portion of Jack’s social security as she, once again, is social security age, unmarried and was married to Jack for at least 10 years.

This does not have to be written into your divorce or dissolution paperwork in order for you to qualify for the benefit. It is automatic within social security and can be claimed upon reaching the magical age of 62 so long as your ex-spouse has also reached that age and is claiming social security. If you both opt to wait until the benefit increases, until you are closer to the age of 70, that is something to take into consideration.