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Divorce and Social Security

| November 16, 2021 

Social Security is usually shared between married couples in Washington once one or both partners reach retirement age. Since many people depend on Social Security as their main income after retirement, there are a lot of questions about what happens to Social Security during a divorce.

Federal laws regarding how Social Security benefits can be claimed among divorced couples have been changed. Now, there are two different rules based on what year you were born.

When can you collect on your ex-spouse’s Social Security?

There are a few qualifying rules for anyone who wants to claim Social Security benefits. The first is that you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.

In addition to that, the ex-spouse looking to claim Social Security benefits from the other must be at least 62 years old and be currently single. It doesn’t matter if the other spouse has remarried or not.

What if you have your own Social Security benefit?

If you have your own Social Security benefit but are eligible for your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit, you will be granted whichever benefit is higher. If you were born after Jan. 2, 1954, then you can’t switch between benefits.

This rule doesn’t apply if you are a surviving spouse. In this case, you can choose between your deceased spouse’s benefit and your own benefit. There are other qualifying factors that can be taken into consideration, such as whether you’re caring for your divorced spouse’s children.

What if you were born before Jan. 2, 1954?

If you were born before the cutoff date, then you can switch between benefits. Most people choose to first claim from their ex-spouse and save their Social Security benefit for later. While they’re doing this practice, their own Social Security benefits are growing. This allows the divorced spouse to have Social Security available even after their ex-spouse’s benefit has run out for them.

There are a lot of terms and conditions that go into when and how to file for Social Security benefits, both out of your own Social Security and your ex-spouse’s. You’ll want to understand the law before making a claim.

Further Reading

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