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How divorce affects Social Security benefits

Even if a New York resident is nowhere near retirement age, Social Security benefits should still be a consideration when a marriage ends. During marriage, a couple might believe that between them, they could receive enough income from Social Security to live comfortably. In most cases, one party receives more benefits due to having a larger income through the years. After a divorce, the party who made less money could be at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving these benefits.

Knowing this, the Social Security Administration allows a former spouse to receive benefits based on the work history of the other spouse. These benefits do not have to be taken shortly after the divorce. When each party reaches retirement age, the option is there for those who qualify.

In order for the spouse looking to receive benefits on the other party's work history to qualify, a New York couple must have been married for at least 10 years. In addition, the claimant must be 62 years old or older and unmarried. Further, the ex-spouse must be entitled to disability or benefits. The amount received must also be more than the party requesting it would receive from his or her own work history.

Individuals whose work histories are being used for Social Security benefits should know that their benefits are not affected by the former spouse's receipt of benefits of their work records. When either spouse chooses to begin collecting these benefits could influence the amount received. During the divorce process, each spouse could discuss this matter with his or her attorney to be sure that the qualifications will be met when the time comes.

Source:, "Your 2017 Guide to Social Security and Divorce", Todd Campbell, Dec. 15, 2016

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