Social Security Benefits After A Divorce

social security divorce


social securityMarriage is a legal institution with a big impact on your finances, your retirement, and particularly your Social Security. How are your Social Security benefits determined after divorce? Here are some “must-knows” as you consider marriage or divorce.

Marriage: The good news

On the plus side, anyone who’s married has access to Social Security spousal payments . The payment amount is up to 50% of your spouse’s full Social Security payment (his or her payment at Full Retirement Age, or FRA, currently 66).

Spousal payments provide a “floor level” of payments — if your own Social Security is small, you can get the larger spousal payments. There’s no marriage penalty, just an opportunity to get at least the spousal payment level.

Most retirees are uninformed about how Social Security benefits are calculated, and often overlook how their change in marital status affects this critical retirement asset.

1. If your marriage lasted 10 years or longer and you have been divorced for at least two years, you are eligible for a divorced spousal benefit.  You can claim either your own benefit or your ex-spouse’s benefit, whichever is higher.

2. You can also claim both benefits. Many divorced spouses optimize their Social Security by beginning their divorced spousal benefit at age 66, which is currently the full retirement age (FRA), and then switching to their own benefit at age 70.

For example, assume that Jane is eligible for a personal benefit of $1,500 per month at age 66 or a divorced spousal benefit of $1,000. If she files as a spouse first, she can claim $1,000 per month now and let her personal benefit grow to $1,980 by age 70, which is 32% higher than her age 66 benefit. This method is called a restricted filing application because Social Security assumes you are filing for the higher of the two benefits unless you specify that you are restricting your larger personal benefit.

When compared to simply starting with the larger benefit, filing as a spouse first will break even in 8½ years after age 66 (or by age 73½) and will provide Jane with an extra $68,160 in total benefits at her life expectancy. We’re not talking chump change.

3. If you begin claiming divorced spousal benefits between age 62 and FRA, you don’t get the opportunity to restrict your filing. Those who file for early benefits are required to take the higher of personal or spousal benefits. In fact, if you work during this time, your benefit could be adjusted downward due to the so-called earnings limit.

4. Getting remarried after a divorce generally means that you lose whatever benefit you may have been eligible for from your former spouse. For most people, this might not be a big deal because it only takes a year of remarriage to become eligible based on your new spouse’s record. The only exception to this loss of benefits occurs if your second spouse dies.

If you have been married for 10 years more than once, you could be eligible for both benefits, but you’ll only receive the higher of the two. However, if neither ex has remarried, they are both eligible to claim spousal benefits on your record.

5. You don’t need to wait for your divorced spouse to file for benefits to become eligible for spousal benefits. If you are both at least age 62, which is the earliest you are eligible for personal or spousal benefits, and you have been divorced for at least two years, Social Security allows you to make an independent filing decision.

Social Security Eligibility When Your Ex-Spouse is Deceased

If your ex-husband dies, you may receive benefits on his record, as long as your marriage lasted for at least 10 years. If you don’t meet the 10-year marriage rule, you can still qualify for benefits if all of the following are true:
– you’re caring for your ex-husband’s natural or legally adopted child
– the child is under age 16, or disabled, and
– the child is getting benefits on your ex-husband’s work record.
Your benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or the child’s disability ceases.
The amount of benefits you receive as a divorced spouse will not affect the amount of benefits other survivors (such as another ex-spouse) receive on your ex’s record.

Because divorce and remarriage add complexity to your Social Security decisions, seek professional financial advice before making such an important decision.

Don’t Forget:
You must apply for Social Security benefits. You can do so by going on-line to, calling 800-772-1213, or making an appointment with your local office.

Social Media and Divorce

social media

Social Media and Divorce

social mediaAs a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney I constantly come across the issue of social media and how it can and does play a part in divorces.  I advise all of my clients to be aware of what they put out there on the internet for everyone to see. This is because all to often pictures, status updates and videos are used against clients in trials. In our family law practice, divorce evidence derived from social media is becoming commonplace. What people don’t realize is that seemingly harmless party photos and location-based status updates can jeopardize a person’s divorce settlement, resulting in the loss of child custody, parenting time or even alimony.  The following advice applies to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin and even dating websites. Not surprisingly there have been numerous articles published on this topic. One of which can be found on The Huffington Post and is titled, “Don’t Let Social Media Sabotage Your Divorce.” The author of this article, Attorney Bari Zell Weinberger, Esq., lists three important steps that a divorcing party should take in order to avoid self sabotage.

1. “Think before you post.” Don’t post any pictures or comments that you know could come back to haunt you as evidence at a trial. Even if your posts are not used as evidence at trial, comments you make can often be used to anticipate your next move in court.

2. “Keep your social networking circles separate from your ex’s.” Keep your ex and his/her friends off of your personal site. You don’t want your ex or his/her friends to have the ability to gather any evidence that can be used against you.  This includes mutual friends who often just can’t keep their mouth shut!  Also, don’t “friend” anyone you don’t know.  We once had an ex make a phony Facebook profile and our careless client accepted the friend request not knowing who it was.

3. “Don’t reveal your location.” If you’re not where you are supposed to be do not announce to the internet world where you actually are at all times.

social media divorceEven if you follow all of the above precautions, remember, a judge could order you to provide all the information on your site to your ex.  That’s right, parties in a divorce get to exchange information, even private information, if it is relevant to the case.  Some judges are ordering that information and post on social media sites be provided to the other side. On the other hand, we tell our clients to check often the sites of their ex’s and friends.  Very often this leads to useful information which can dramatically change outcome of the case. Should you live in the Pittsburgh area and are contemplating divorce contact us today.  A Pittsburgh Divorce Attorney can assist you with tailoring your personal social media sites to ensure they cannot potentially harm your case.