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Rules govern Social Security spousal benefits for divorcees

Divorcees in Colorado can often find themselves on unequal financial footing in comparison to their former partners. This can be particularly evident when one spouse works in a field that pays significantly less than the other or stays at home for many years while raising children. Significant disparities in Social Security benefit entitlements can be the result, but knowing and meeting certain requirements can help some divorced spouses receive a retirement benefit as high as half of the ex-spouse's benefit at full retirement age.

A person must have been married for 10 years to be able to use the former spouse's Social Security earning records, but caveats do apply to this rule. The 10 married years must be consecutive without a full calendar year of interruption. For example, a couple married for 9 years who divorced in December 2015 only to remarry one another in January 2017 would no longer be considered under the 10-year rule as 2016 elapsed while they were separated.

In some circumstances, a couple may divorce and one former spouse later dies, leaving the lower-earning ex-spouse concerned about possible benefit increases. The 10-year rule would still apply here in considering an adjustment of benefits as a surviving divorced spouse.

Couples who divorce may do so with the intent of obtaining a fresh start, but lingering questions of financial stability might persist due to concerns regarding Social Security adjustments and other factors. In addition to helping a client understand the restrictions that are applicable to these benefits, a family law attorney could help a divorcing spouse to determine a fair division of property and shared bank accounts.

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Cooper, Tanis & Armas, P.C.
42 Garden Center
Broomfield, CO 80020