As an equitable distribution in many of the divorce cases my firm handles one of the assets that needs to be addressed in equitable distribution is the parties' Social Security benefits. In any marriage that has lasted 10 years or longer and at least one party was contributing to Social Security, both parties are entitled to benefits. If only one spouse was paying into Social Security, the non-paying spouse will be entitled to spousal benefits. If a party claims spousal benefits at retirement, he or she is typically entitled to 50 percent of the full benefits of the wage earner. If for some reason the benefits are claimed early, this amount will be reduced.
If both parties were paying into the system throughout the marriage of at least 10 years, they are entitled to their own benefits or the spousal benefit, but not both. Therefore, it is sometimes more beneficial for a party to take 50 percent of his or her spouse's benefit rather than taking one's own benefit depending on the respective amounts.
Finally, if a party divorced and remarries before he or she turns 60, he or she will no longer have a claim to the former spouse's Social Security benefits. Conversely, if a party divorces and subsequently remarries after age 60, he or she retains the right to their former spouse's spousal or survivor benefits for the rest of their lives.
If you have been married to your spouse for more than 10 years and one or both of you have been contributing to Social Security, it is important to consider the impact your respective Social Security benefits may have on the distribution of assets in your divorce. If you are facing a divorce and need advice, you should contact my Pittsburgh law office, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, about the implications of Social Security on your case.