Social Security and Divorce

In recent years, there has been a rising trend among the most likely age at which individuals will get divorced. While the divorce rate for early and middle-aged divorces has plateaued, divorce in spouses over the age of 50 is on the rise. Longer life spans, shrinking social stigma, and the changing roles of women in the work force and in the home have all be theorized to contribute to this trend. No matter the cause, the result is that many seniors are now facing new and pressing financial issues.

During marriage, the couple often plans for retirement together. After divorce, each must determine how to make their resources stretch to cover all of their needs. Many seniors depend on Social Security income in order to meet their needs during retirement. Most people already know that waiting to claim your Social Security benefits until later will mean a larger benefit. The relation between divorce and Social Security is somewhat less well-known or understood.

If you are divorced, it may be possible for you to receive Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s record, or, conversely, for your spouse to receive benefits based on your record. You may qualify to receive Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s record if:

  • Your marriage lasted ten years or longer;
  • You are unmarried;
  • You are at least 62 years old;
  • Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits; and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your former spouse’s work record.

Although remarriage may act as a bar to receiving these benefits, you may still be eligible to receive social security benefits that are based on a former spouse’s work record if your second marriage has since ended (by death or divorce). Note that it is immaterial whether your former spouse has remarried. If you start to receive benefits from your former spouse’s Social Security at your own full retirement age, your benefit will be one-half of your former spouse’s full retirement benefit amount. Even if your former spouse has not yet retired and started drawing Social Security retirement benefits, you may still apply as long as you have been divorced for at least two years.

Divorce and retirement both require careful financial mapping. We have experience in helping our clients craft solutions for their future during and after divorce. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to schedule an appointment


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