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#519 Divorce and social security benefits

mp3 #519 Divorce and Social Security Benefits (mp3 file)


Family Law matters are very complex. Many who try to handle these matters on their own quickly find themselves overwhelmed and out of favor with the courts. Often times costs are cited as the reason for self representation. However, most people with assets and retirement plans stand to lose significant amounts of money, or worse, lose custody of their children if they are not properly represented. Continue here to be referred to an experienced and insured Social Security attorney:


If you are divorced after at least ten years of marriage, and under some other circumstances, you may be eligible for social security benefits at some point in your life, based on your ex-spouse's social security work record. Since requests for such benefits are usually made by ex-wives, this SmartLaw message will assume that you are an ex-wife who is applying for benefits, after a marriage that lasted at least ten years, and that your former husband was covered by social security where he worked. (However, the law applies equally to an ex-husband as well, who needs benefits based on his ex-wife's social security account.)

This message will discuss the following questions:

1--For how long must you have been married to your ex-husband, for you to be eligible for social security benefits based on his work record?

2--When in your life are you eligible to receive social security benefits based on your ex-husband's work record?

3--How much money will you receive each month?

4--What happens if you remarry someone else after your divorce?

5--What if you have a social security work record yourself?

6--What if you have had two or more marriages that each lasted for at least 10 years, and they all ended in divorce?

7--Will you have to share benefits with another wife, if your ex-husband remarried after your divorce?

First, for how long must you have been married to your ex-husband, for you to be eligible for social security benefits based on his earnings record? Your marriage must have lasted for at least ten consecutive years, from the date of your marriage ceremony until the date when your divorce decree is final. Time periods when you were separated, but still legally married, are all counted in the number of years you were married. Any time you may have lived together in California, before your marriage ceremony, does not count toward the number of years you were married. However, if you were involved in a state that recognizes common-law marriage, then the time that you lived together with your common law spouse may be counted as part or all of the ten years of marriage, even if there was no marriage ceremony. Social security benefits do not have to be mentioned in your divorce property settlement, for you to be eligible for social security benefits as a divorced wife.

The next question is, when in your life are you eligible to receive social security benefits based on your ex-husband's work record?

There are five situations when you may be eligible to receive benefits:

1--When you are age 62 or older, you are not presently married, your ex-husband is alive, and he has already started collecting either retirement benefits or disability benefits for Himself. It does not matter how long or short a time it has been, since you were divorced. Or,

2--When you are age 62 or older, you are not presently married, you have been divorced for at least two years, your ex-husband is alive, and although he is not actually receiving social security benefits himself, he is already eligible to receive such benefits if he chose to receive them. Or,

3-.-When you are age 60 or older, you are not presently married, and your ex-husband has died. Or,

4--When you are age 50 or older, you are disabled, you are not presently married, and your ex-husband has died. Or,

5--When you are any age, you are not presently married, your ex-husband has died, and you care for minor children or disabled adult children, who are entitled to social security children's benefits based on your ex-husband's record. You should know that you do not have to have been married for ten years under this circumstance.

The next question is, how much money will you receive each month, when you are eligible for social security benefits based on your .ex-husband's account.

The amount of money in your monthly check depends partly upon the earnings record of your ex-husband. The higher his earnings, the higher your check will be.

Also, the amount of money in your monthly check depends upon the type of your benefits, whether your divorced husband is alive or has died, and how old you are when you start receiving benefits based on your divorced husband's account. If you wait until you are age 65 before you receive retirement benefits while your ex-husband is alive, you will receive a full 50% of what your ex-husband's benefits are or could be. But if you start receiving benefits earlier, your check will be permanently reduced, depending on how much earlier you start receiving benefits. For example, if you start receiving benefits at age 62, your check will be 37 1/2 percent of what your ex-husband's benefits are or could be.

The amount of your benefit is not reduced, however, if your divorced husband starts receiving retirement benefits early between the ages of 62 and 65. Your benefit is a percentage of what your divorced husband would receive, if he waited until he was 65 years old before receiving any retirement benefits to which he is entitled.

The amount of your monthly checks will be up to 75% of your divorced husband's monthly benefit, if your divorced husband has died and you are receiving a mother's benefit for caring for certain minor or disabled adult children by your former husband. The amount of a mother's benefit for yourself may be less than 75% however, if there are two or more children who are sharing in the family's total maximum benefit each month.

If your ex-husband has died, the amount of your monthly check will be up to 100% of what your divorced husband would receive if he were still alive, and if you begin receiving benefits when you are age 65 or older. It will be less than 100% if you begin receiving benefits early, between the ages of 60 to 65.

The next question is, what happens if you remarry someone after your divorce?

Your remarriage will usually end your eligibility for retirement benefits based on your ex-husband's account, if he is still alive. However, if your new marriage is ended by divorce or by the death of your new husband, you may reapply for retirement benefits on your first husband's account. If your new husband is himself receiving social security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible for a wife's benefits based on your new husband's social security account.

Your remarriage may also end your eligibility for benefits after your divorced husband has died, unless you remarry after you are 60 years old, or after you are 50 years old if you are disabled.

Your remarriage will also usually end mother's benefits for yourself, when you are caring for minor or disabled children of your divorced husband who has died, but the children's benefits will continue even though you have remarried.

The next question is, what if you have a social security earnings record yourself? Will you get a greater amount of social security because both you and your ex-husband qualify for social security?

No. The amount you will receive is based on either your work record or his work record, whichever results in a greater amount.

The next question is, what if you have had two or more marriages that ended in divorce, and each marriage lasted for 10 years or more? Will you get two or more checks, one from the account of each divorced husband?

No. You will receive only one check, based on whichever divorced husband's account will give you the largest check each month.

The last question is, what if your husband has remarried, and his present wife also applies for social security benefits on his work record. Will you have to share benefits with her, with each of you getting less than the usual amount?

No, you will not have to share benefits with your ex-husband's present wife, or with any of his other former wives. You will each be entitled to your regular benefits, if each of you qualifies. There is no reduction in benefits for anyone, when a man is married, and he has one or more ex-wives who are eligible for benefits on his work record.

For additional information about your own situation, contact your local social security office, because this message does not include full information about every possible exception to the general rules which have been described. You may also look up the social security law yourself, at a larger public library, at a law library, or at your local social security office, in volume 42 of the United States code, section 402, and in other social security statutes and regulations.

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