Financial plans and savings made during the course of a marriage are typically done with the intention of being for the future benefit of both parties. Similarly, any accrued Social Security benefits from one spouse's work history are often intended as retirement support for not just that individual, but for his or her spouse as well. When New York couples choose to divorce, what exactly happens to all of those Social Security benefits?
While filing for and receiving benefits from Social Security based on an ex-spouse's work history is certainly a possibility, several factors must first be taken into account. For instance, the age at which an individual files for spousal benefits is obviously a factor. Lower benefits are available at the earliest filing age and the highest benefits are available at age 70.
Of course, age is not the only limiting factor for spousal benefits. The length of the marriage is also important, and any marriage lasting less than 10 years disqualifies an ex from receiving any type of Social Security spousal benefit. Filers must typically also be unmarried at the time that they file, although it is possible to remarry and then later divorce before seeking benefits. If an individual has Social Security benefits accrued from his or her own work history, he or she has the option of deferring making a claim on those and instead filing for spousal benefits in an attempt to maximize his or her own benefits.
Financial and retirement concerns are not uncommon during a divorce, especially for those who divorce later on in life or after many years of marriage. While most retirement accounts, IRAs and other investments will be divided and addressed in the divorce settlement, Social Security benefits can easily be left out of the discussion. Lacking a proper conversation on the subject, some people might labor under the misconception that spousal benefits can decrease their own benefits or other common Social Security myths. For a New York divorcee who might plan to one day file against an ex's benefits, it might be advisable to discuss this with legal counsel to ensure that he or she understands the future possibilities for spousal benefits.
Source: Forbes, "Social Security: Can You Claim Benefits If You're Divorced?", John Wasik, June 29, 2015