In the last blog entry, I commented on some of the interplay between the Social Security system and divorce. Most notably, I discussed spousal and survivor benefits and what happens when a person divorces before or after the age of 60. However, there are a number of other novel situations that can arise depending on the circumstances of a divorce. For instance, if you are now single, but were married twice previously (each time for at least 10 years), the law permits you to choose which former spouse’s benefits to claim if you do not elect to take your own.
Another interesting case arises if a person has been married twice, but the current spouse predeceases the former spouse. Say that you were previously married for 12 years and that spouse contributed to Social Security for the entire duration of the marriage. You then divorced that spouse and married a second spouse and have been married for 14 years. If your second spouse were to die before your first spouse, the law allows you to choose which spouse’s benefits to draw from. Now, normally, this isn’t much of a choice considering that survivor benefits are more generous, granting the recipient 100 percent of a working person’s entitlement, while spousal benefits are only 50 percent. However, the choice can be important considering the amount of each respective benefit.
Clearly, there are numerous important issues to consider when addressing Social Security and Divorce. If you or your spouse has been contributing to Social Security during your marriage and have been married for at least 10 years, you will have to make a decision about which benefits to elect to take upon divorce. As an experienced divorce attorney, I can help you before making any final election.