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Social Security And Divorce


When two people divorce, this does not necessarily mean that their lives are forever divided, especially when discussing issues surrounding retirement and estate planning. For example, even divorced spouses may be able to claim Social Security benefits on each other’s work records depending on the specific situation that one or both may find themselves in.

General Rules

For most people, the age at which one can begin to receive Social Security benefits is 67. However, depending on your date of birth, your “full retirement age” may be slightly younger – some people are eligible to receive full benefits at age 65, and some even elect to start receiving partial benefits at age 62. Normally, people obtain benefits based on their work record – though one must have “40 credits,” roughly equivalent to 10 years of work experience, in order to do so.

An individual may collect benefits based on their spouse’s work record if theirs is not sufficient, and this extends to former spouses, as long as they are not remarried. In other words, your former spouse may collect benefits on your work record as long as they (1) do not remarry, and (2) your work record would entitle them to more than their own does. This does not affect your ability (or that of a new spouse) to collect Social Security benefits.

Specific Situations May Change Matters

While collecting on an ex-spouse’s work record is fairly standard and usually uneventful, there are some eventualities that may raise questions or require a few extra steps. For example, one common question is whether or not an individual can collect retirement benefits on their ex-spouse’s record if their ex-spouse has not retired yet. The answer is generally yes, so long as (1) your ex has reached the necessary age for retirement; (2) you meet all the other relevant criteria, such as the necessary length of marriage; and (3) you have been divorced for at least two years. If the working spouse has not begun receiving benefits because they are not at the retirement age, you are not entitled to begin to collect benefits until they do.

Another common question is whether one can collect social security on their ex-spouse’s record if that person is deceased. Generally, if your ex-spouse is deceased and you do not remarry until after the age of 60, you can file to begin collecting benefits on their record at that point, or thereafter. Remarrying before the age of 60 means you are unable to collect on their record at any time; instead, you would need to seek to claim on either your own or your new spouse’s work record when it comes time to apply.

Call an Experienced Attorney

Even in the most amicable divorces, discussing complex issues like Social Security payments and work records can get complex. Contacting an experienced lawyer who can help advise you on estate planning matters is a good way to ensure your questions are answered now, rather than later. The Kainen Law Group is well versed in this type of case, and is happy to try and help you with yours. Contact our Las Vegas office today to set up an appointment.


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