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Claiming Social Security benefits following a divorce

A growing number of people in North Dakota are choosing to divorce later in life. These “gray divorces” can lead to complicated financial concerns, especially as people have less time to rebuild their retirement savings in order to plan for the future. Social Security benefits can be an important concern for many of them, especially if they spent a significant amount of time out of the workforce as a stay-at-home spouse.

Social Security benefits after a divorce

There are a number of misconceptions about receiving Social Security benefits based on a former spouse’s earning record. Essentially, if you were married for at least 10 years before you divorced, you may be eligible for Social Security or survivor benefits based on the record of your former spouse. By claiming these benefits, you will not affect your ex-spouse’s own eligibility to claim their full benefits. Even if your former spouse later remarried, you would still remain eligible to claim these benefits based on your earlier 10 years of marriage. Each person can claim the benefit in full; they are not divided up among spouses.

Claiming Social Security on a former spouse’s record

On the other hand, if you have remarried, you may no longer be eligible to claim Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earning record. In addition, you must be at least 62 years of age and the benefits on your ex-spouse’s record must be greater than those based on your own earnings over the years. A spousal benefit is one-half of your former spouse’s benefit; survivor’s benefits, on the other hand, may include the entire benefit for your ex-spouse.

Navigating the Social Security system can be complex, and it is important to remember that you receive only the benefit that pays the highest amount. A family law attorney might provide guidance and advice on dealing with these issues as part of the divorce.