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Collecting Social Security benefits after a divorce

| May 22, 2019 | Family Law |

For many married people in Alabama, Social Security benefits are an important asset. Even when a spouse has little or no income of their own, they may still collect up to half of their significant other’s benefits if they are eligible to receive payouts. But when a marriage ends, there’s understandable concern about what might happen with such benefits.

If a marriage lasted for 10 years or more, a former spouse still unmarried and eligible for Social Security benefits may be able to collect on their ex’s record, provided he or she is also entitled to benefits. Even if the other spouse has remarried, the former spouse may still collect up to half of their ex’s full benefits. Payouts claimed before full retirement age, however, will be reduced accordingly. Also, collection when an eligible ex-spouse has not yet applied for benefits may be possible if it’s been two or more years since the divorce.

Remarriage usually puts an end to benefits being received based on an ex-spouse’s record although the remarried spouse may be able to collect from their new spouse’s record if they are eligible for Social Security payments. If a new marriage is annulled or ends in divorce or death, the former spouse may be able to resume collecting from their ex’s record. With multiple divorces, each subsequent marriage must have lasted for at least a decade for a former spouse to collect on the higher-earning ex’s record.

Being eligible for Social Security benefits from a soon-to-be-ex’s record doesn’t mean a divorce attorney may not also recommend that a lower-earning spouse seek alimony payments. If there is some doubt about what kind of assets a divorcing spouse may have access to, or if it’s suspected that financial resources that could affect property distribution are being under-reported or hidden, a lawyer may call on a forensic accountant to investigate.