With more couples here in Kentucky and elsewhere divorcing around or after retirement age, supplementing income becomes a primary concern. Any retirement accounts the couple would have shared had they remained married are more than likely diminished through the property division part of the divorce.
If you find yourself in this position, you may wonder whether you can supplement your income with Social Security benefits based on your former spouse's work record instead of yours because the amount would be higher. The short answer to this question is maybe.
What rules apply when seeking benefits on your ex's work record?
The Social Security Administration will provide you with benefits based on your ex's work record if you meet at least the following criteria:
- You and your spouse must reach the minimum age of 62 to qualify for benefits. If your former spouse has passed away, this may not apply.
- Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
- The benefits available under your ex-spouse's work record must exceed those you would receive under your record.
If you meet these minimal requirements, you may apply for benefits based on the other party's work record. However, if your divorce is less than two years old, you cannot receive those benefits unless your ex also receives them. Moreover, as would be the case if you applied for benefits under your own work record, you may want to wait as long as possible to begin receiving them since the amount goes up every year after age 62.
You should also know that once you apply for any Social Security benefits on your former spouse's work record, the benefits based on your own work record stop increasing. In other words, you can't receive benefits based on your ex's record in the hopes that your own benefits would continue to increase as you age so you could later switch. In addition, you will only receive no more than 50 percent of your former spouse's full benefits.
How does this affect your divorce?
The good news is that you do not have to claim these benefits during your divorce. Your right to these benefits remains as long as you meet the eligibility requirements above. However, you may factor this potential income source into your financial needs during the divorce. Part of that calculation needs to include your age at the time of the divorce.
You may not receive these benefits for several years, so you should not necessarily factor them into any divorce settlement you negotiate.