Social Security and Divorce

In a long term marriage – ten years or more, a divorced spouse can potentially get higher social security benefits upon retirement.

An Example: 

  • You have been married for 11 years.
  • You get a divorce.
  • At retirement you will get social security benefits based on your lifetime income.
  • OR … you may receive more if your spouse is entitled to higher benefits.
  • You will receive a combination of benefits from your own social security entitlement plus part of your spouse’s entitlement.
  • This means your social security will be higher.

How does this affect your spouse at retirement?

There is absolutely NO EFFECT on the spouse that made a higher income.  He or she will still receive the same retirement benefits.  The potential benefit to the higher income spouse is in a situation where alimony is payable.  The higher income spouse might be able to taper off alimony payments during retirement if the person receiving alimony receives higher social security benefits.

Bottom Line

This is a benefit one or the other spouse receives without harm to the other former spouse.  There is little or no impact on your current divorce issues. The overall effect is very positive because in some alimony cases – your spouse will have less need for support if the potential social security payment is higher than expected. When planning your financial future post-divorce, be sure to contact your local social security office to get a projected retirement benefit.


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