Surprising Gem of a Secret that most Divorcing People don't know about Social Security Benefits

Divorce law and social security benefits come together long after a couple is divorced. People who were married for over ten years may be eligible to receive social security benefits based on their ex-husband or ex-wife's earnings, and not just the earnings made during the course of the marriage.  Benefits are not automatic. Here are the criteria:

  •  Marriage of ten years or longer
  • The individual receiving benefits based on the ex's income must be unmarried and the other ex-spouse must be entitled to social security retirement or disability benefits
  • Both parties have to be at least 62 years old
  • The individual receiving benefits based on the ex's income must be able to show that any benefit which they could receive based on their own earnings is less than the benefit they could get based on ex's income.

Even more surprising, claiming social security based on an ex's earnings does not in any way diminish or affect the benefits that ex themself will receive! I remember years ago going with my mom down to apply for social security, and, fitting the above criteria, was told that she would get benefits based on my dad's higher earnings.  After it sunk in, she told the staff person helping her that she didn't want the money if it would shrink what my dad or his new wife would get. She was reassured that it would not affect him whatsoever and unless she told him, he would not even be notified. In any case, folks like my mom can collect the spousal benefits of an ex so long as the ex filed for social security even if not collecting the benefits currently. There are a few different ways that the above scenario can play out but this is one of my favorite lesser - known facts about divorce.

If you are facing divorce in the Chicago area, be sure to request a copy of my free divorce book "Defending the Ending" to learn more, or else call us to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation in depth. 

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Bankruptcy, Injury, Real Estate & Mediation