Social Security Benefits and Divorce FAQs

  1. I am going through a divorce right now, will I receive any social security benefits?

This issue comes up often. It is more common in older couples that are going through a divorce and getting close to retirement age. The simple answer is, yes, you will receive some sort of social security benefits. However, what you will receive will depend on a number of factors.

  1. Will I get to collect from my benefits and also my spouse’s?

No. The federal government does not allow you to double dip. You will have to make a choice as to whose social security you would like to collect from.

  1. So will I get more from my social security or my spouse’s?

This will depend largely on who worked more and who made more money on average. If you choose to collect from your spouse, you will only receive half of the amount he receives on a monthly basis. If you choose to collect from your own social security, you will receive the full monthly amount. You will have to look at the numbers and determine if your spouse’s half is more than your full amount. If you worked very little and he or she was the primary breadwinner, there is a good chance their half will be more than your full amount.

  1. When can I first start to receive my spouse’s social security benefits?

After you and your spouse are divorced you can start to receive his or her benefits once you reach retirement age, which is currently 62 years old. However, keep in mind that if you defer to collect, the amount can increase over time. It is important to talk to an accountant if this is something you decide to do.  

  1. What happens if my spouse and I decide to go forward with a legal separation instead of a divorce?

There is a downside if you decide to pursue a legal separation. The government will look at you as married, despite there being a legal separation on file. This means you cannot pull from your spouse’s social security until he or she decides to opt in. Unfortunately, this means you could wait years to begin collecting. However, if you and your ex spouse are on good terms, it is worth reach out to him or her to see if they will opt in, but defer theirs. This way, you can still begin to collect.

  1. Is there anything that could stop me from receiving my spouse’s benefits?

Yes. If you do end up remarrying, you will not be able to collect from their benefits any longer. However, you will have the option to begin collecting on yours or on your new spouse’s benefits if that is an option. Additionally, if you end up divorcing your new spouse, you can then go back to collecting from your previous spouse.  

  1. Are there any other rules that are important?

You cannot take advantage of collecting from your spouse unless you were married to him or her for 10 years or more. If you are married for any less time than that, you will not be able to collect.

  1. Is that everything I need to know?

No. There are always more rules and exceptions. As stated above, it is very important that you speak with an accountant on these issues to make sure you are aware of every aspect.