By Alisse C. Camazine
A judge dealing with a divorce has no control over how much social security income you will receive, so don’t expect your divorce judgment to say anything about social security. Social security is a matter of federal law and only the Social Security Administration can determine what you will receive.
Here are the basics: You are entitled to receive social security from your ex if: 1) you are age 62; 2) you were married 10 years or more and the benefit from your ex is higher than the benefit you would be receiving from your own work history; and 3) you are currently unmarried.
Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. Your full retirement age according to the Social Security Administration depends on when you were born. If both you and your ex-spouse worked you can earn benefits based on whoever had higher wages. If you never worked, you can still collect benefits based on your ex’s work history.
If your ex has not yet applied but qualifies for benefits, you can still receive benefits if you have been divorced for at least two years. As a general rule, the longer you wait to collect spousal benefits the higher the benefit will be.
Getting remarried after a divorce may mean that you lose spousal benefits from your ex unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).
It is also important to determine the best time to claim your benefits. If you are entitled to $1000 per month and you are entitled to $1000 from your ex you can take your ex’s benefit and delay taking yours. That will boost the benefit you can receive later.
Social security rules are complicated. It is important that you consult a professional, either an attorney or an accountant, to help you with this calculation if you are unsure of the benefit available.
If your ex-spouse dies, and you were married for 10 or more years, you become eligible for divorced “survivor benefits,” worth up to 100% of what your ex-spouse would have received.
Survivor’s benefits are available to divorced spouses as early as age 60 (age 50 if you’re disabled). But, if you remarry before 60, you become ineligible unless the marriage ends.
Remarrying after age 60 will not affect your eligibility.
The Social Security Administration provides a great deal of information on its website. You can also check out the official Social Security publication for divorced spouses, “If You Are Divorced,” for more information. If you are in doubt about the benefits to which you are entitled, you should consult an attorney.