Divorce and an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits

In a recent blog post, we discussed ways divorce is different for individuals who split from a spouse after age 50. As we discussed, for so-called gray divorcees, the possible financial implications related to a divorce are often much more readily apparent and can significantly impact an individual's ability to retire and to comfortably live out one's retirement years.

For individuals age 50 and older who are planning to divorce, it's especially important to take stock of shared assets and to take steps to plan for one's future financial needs. This is especially important for individuals who, during the course of a marriage, never worked or only worked part-time. In addition to a request for spousal support, it's also important to explore options related to an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits.

Qualifying individuals may be able to claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse's record. In order to claim benefits based on an ex-spouse's work history, an individual must be single and at least age 62. Additionally, an individual must have been married to an ex-spouse for at least 10 years. As long as an ex-spouse is eligible to take benefits, an individual may apply to receive 50 percent of an ex's full retirement benefit amount.

While taking advantage of an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits is especially important for individuals who never worked, even those who did work may opt to take benefits based on an ex's record. In some cases the payout amount may be greater on an ex's record, in other cases an individual may choose to receive benefits under an ex's record and delay taking benefits under their own record. By delaying one's own benefits, based upon the Social Security Administration's Delayed Retirement Credits, an individual can expect to receive a higher future benefit amount.

Source: SSA.gov, "Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced," March 2, 2015