Social Security Benefits in Divorce

Financial planners and divorce lawyers agree that division of assets in divorce can be a major headache. After making the big decisions, sometimes the thought of a future Social Security benefit can be last on the list - especially for younger couples. But with "silver divorce" on the rise, Social Security benefits in divorce play a major role in terms of financial security after divorce. Knowing who is entitled what, and for how much can be difficult to understand. Before making any changes, contact a Bucks County divorce lawyer about the below guidelines of dividing Social Security benefits in divorce.

Bucks County financial planner Marianna Goldberg provides her clients with what they need to manage their financial futures. In handling your divorce, our Doylestown divorce lawyers incorporate financial planning during equitable distribution and drafting your QDRO. Ms. Goldberg advises of these general rules about social security benefits for spouses.

1. How Much

For marriages that lasted at least ten years, dividing social security benefits in divorce can be a matter of which option is more lucrative - yours, or your the portion of your ex's. If the length of the marriage was at least ten years, an individual has a choice of collecting all of his or her own benefits or half of the ex spouse's derivative benefits, which ever is higher. If the marriage was less than ten years, a spouse can only collect based upon his or her own record. Social Security benefits in divorce, the date used to determine length of the marriage is the date of the divorce decree, not the date of separation.

2. When can the benefits be received

To receive derivative benefits, you must be at least 62 years and unmarried. Unless the primary beneficiary is already collecting benefits, you must be divorced for at least two years prior. For those who are collecting on their own benefits, eligibility starts at 62 years old and marital status is not a factor.

3. Effect of Remarriage on Social Security Benefits in Divorce

Upon remarrying, someone receiving derivative benefits become ineligible to receive the benefits anymore. Eligibility for derivative benefits resumes if the new marriage ends and depending on the length of the second marriage, the individual may choose which of the derivatives benefits to elect. The second marriage had to have lasted at least ten years for the option to choose.

The major exception to the above concerns those who remarry after age 60. If your ex was a high earner and your potential new husband is not, it may be smart to hold off on remarrying until you are over 60. This way, you are eligible to receive half of your ex's benefit amount as well as retain eligibility to receive full amount if your ex dies before you.

4. How derivative benefits effect primary earner

If one or multiple former spouses are receiving derivative benefits, there is no reduction in benefits for the primary earner.

5. Death of the primary earner

The benefits of the surviving, former spouse increase to 100% if the contributing spouse dies. This also applies to eligible former spouses collecting derivative benefits. Any former spouses are eligible to receive the survivor benefits at age 60.

Dividing Social Security benefits in divorce can raise a lot of questions, especially if there have been multiple remarriages. Whether you were the primary earner or relying upon the benefits of an ex spouse, having an experienced Bucks County divorce lawyer to work with your financial planner can ensure your best interests are met. Marianna A. Goldenberg, CDFA is a Partner at Penn Wealth Planning ™, LLC which is located in New Hope, Bucks County. Her specialized practice in the area of divorce provides clients a distinct and valuable edge to financial planning during and after divorce.

Call the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner P.C. today, at (215) 693-6191 to schedule your consultation with an experienced Doylestown divorce attorney.