Saving for retirement is tough, and Social Security can go a long way toward making ends meet — especially if your nest egg isn’t as robust as you’d hoped. Retirement benefits are the most common type of Social Security, but they’re not the only form of benefits available. If you’ve ever been married, you could potentially qualify for spousal or divorce benefits.
Spousal benefits are generally reserved for those who are currently married. But if you’re divorced, you could still be eligible for hundreds of dollars per month in divorce benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about this special type of Social Security.
1. There are certain requirements you’ll need to meet
To qualify for spousal benefits, you generally only have to be married to someone who is entitled to either retirement or disability Social Security. But for divorce benefits, there are a few more requirements you’ll need to meet:
Your previous marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
You can’t currently be married (but you can still qualify if your ex-spouse has remarried).
If you’ve been divorced for less than two years, you must wait until your ex-spouse begins taking Social Security before you can file for divorce benefits.
You can also receive divorce benefits even if you qualify for Social Security based on your own earnings history, but the rules can get murky. (We’ll delve into this later.)
2. Your age will affect your benefits
The most you can receive in divorce benefits is 50% of the amount your ex-spouse will receive at their full retirement age (FRA). To receive those maximum payments, you’ll need to wait until your own FRA to begin claiming. Your FRA will depend on your birth year, but it’s age 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.
You can file for Social Security as early as age 62, but the earlier you begin taking benefits, the less you’ll receive each month. Also, unlike standard retirement benefits, delaying Social Security past your FRA will not boost your divorce benefit payments.
Finally, claiming divorce benefits won’t affect your ex-partner’s benefit amount in any way. If they’ve remarried, taking divorce benefits won’t impact their current spouse’s ability to claim spousal benefits based on their record.
3. You can qualify for both retirement and divorce benefits
If you’re eligible for Social Security based on your own work record, you can still receive divorce benefits — but you’ll only receive the higher of the two amounts. For example, say that you qualify for $1,000 per month in retirement benefits based on your earnings history, and your ex-spouse will receive $3,000 per month at their FRA. Your maximum divorce benefit in this case, then, is $1,500 per month.
Technically, you’ll receive two separate payments. The Social Security Administration will pay out your $1,000 benefit first, then you’ll receive an extra $500 per month in divorce benefits so that your total payment is $1,500 per month. If you were collecting, say, $2,000 per month in retirement benefits, you wouldn’t qualify for divorce benefits at all.
Divorce benefits can be complicated. But the average spousal/divorce benefit among retired workers is around $912 per month, as of December 2023, which can go a long way. By ensuring you’re receiving all the benefits you’re entitled to, you can head into retirement as prepared as possible.
The $21,756 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $21,756 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Social Security Divorce Benefits: 3 Things All Divorced Spouses Should Know was originally published by The Motley Fool