When it comes to divorce, there are a couple of basic rules to follow when it comes time to begin thinking about Social Security benefits.
First, if an individual was married for at least a decade to their spouse, then divorced, he or she is eligible to collect spousal benefits for as long as the beneficiary recipient is single. The recipient can continue to collect even if the ex-spouse remarries.
If both ex-spouses are at least 62 years old and divorced for at least two years, one ex-spouse is entitled to claim benefits based on the other’s earnings, even if the other spouse hasn’t filed yet. Additionally, there are instances where one ex-spouse can claim a spousal benefit equal to 50% of the other spouse’s full retirement benefit while postponing their own and allowing it to grow by a certain percentage annually to the maximum at age 70.
Can Benefits be Controlled Through a Divorce Settlement?
According to the AARP, the short answer is no.
You can still qualify for that divorced spouse’s benefit as long as you meet the stipulations outlined above. Your ex-spouse can’t prevent you from receiving that benefit, but Social Security won’t pay if your own personal retirement benefit is valued at a higher number. If you qualify for two types of benefits, Social Security will pay whichever is higher.
You could potentially protect the long-term value of the divorced spouse benefit through a prenup as well.
What About Other Retirement Vehicles?
Things continue to get complicated with older couples who may have multiple IRAs, 401(k)s or other retirement investments. These vehicles are often split within a divorce, but the nature of that split can depend on whose is valued higher or if one party physically owns more retirement investments than the other.
Older couples with established retirement and Social Security considerations add to the complexities of the divorce negotiation and settlement process. This is why it’s important to have a qualified divorce attorney on your side. Call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard today at (601) 824-9797 to learn how we’ve helped Brandon and Jackson spouses through divorces.