Robert G. Smith, PLLC

Social Security spousal benefits

As some New York residents know, Social Security spousal benefits are available after a divorce if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Spousal benefits differ based on when collection is begun. In some cases, a person can receive benefits based upon the former spouse's earnings record.

Technically, an ex-spouse can begin to collect spousal benefits when he or she reaches age 62. Depending on the year of birth, the full retirement age differs. For instance, if an individual was born between the years 1943 and 1954, that age is 66. Collecting benefits before that age means the benefit is reduced, amounting to roughly 8 percent for each year up to the FRA.

Another factor to consider is the effect employment will have on the benefit amount. The Social Security Administration sets a limit on what can be earned without being penalized. If the amount exceeds that limit, $1 is deducted from the benefit amount for each dollar earned. After FRA, restrictions based on how much an individual may earn fall away.

Both earning restrictions and collection age affect the amount of spousal benefits. Both factors should be considered if collecting spousal benefits might be delayed. Depending on circumstances, waiting to collect might be preferable. When the ex-spouse decides to collect based on personal work history, he or she may switch from spousal benefits to their own Social Security retirement benefits if the latter are greater.

Divorced people who are eligible to collect Social Security spousal benefits might find consulting with a family law attorney before applying beneficial. Legal counsel might review the situation and advise on when it is best to apply.

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