Even for high-income earners, Social Security payments represent a substantial income source after retirement. For some people, divorce may affect the amount of the payment they receive.
How does divorce affect Social Security?
Who can get spousal benefits?
The current spouses of people who are eligible to receive Social Security are usually eligible for spousal benefits, even if those people do not qualify for benefits based on their work records. The maximum value of Social Security spousal support is 50% of the amount your spouse is eligible to receive at full retirement age.
If you are eligible to receive benefits based on your work record, you can only collect spousal benefits if your payments are less than the amount of spousal benefits you would receive. You can not collect both your benefit and the spousal benefit.
Who can get divorce benefits?
Divorce benefits work similarly to spousal benefits. To qualify, your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and you can not have remarried. Divorce benefits are also capped at 50% of your ex-spouse’s full benefit amount and you can only collect the higher of either your benefit or the divorce benefit. Claiming divorce benefits does not affect how much money your former spouse receives.
If your marriage is less than 10 years old and your spouse is eligible to collect a significantly larger Social Security benefit than you are, getting divorced could cost you a substantial amount of money. Spouses who earn less money than their partners may need to carefully consider the financial implications of the divorce process.