Spousal Social Security Benefits and Divorce: What You Need To Know

Social Security is an important part of most Americans’ retirement plans. A unique aspect of the program is the ability to take spousal security benefits for spouses that have been married for at least ten years. With spousal benefits, instead of taking Social Security benefits from your own earning record, you get a portion of your spouse’s social security benefit, up to 50% in many cases.

How Does It Work?

Spousal social security benefits are benefits available to any eligible worker’s spouse. You can apply for spousal benefits at different points in time depending on your age and the age of your spouse. If you take spousal benefits at the full retirement age (not early), you get 50% of your spouse’s social security amount. This is not in any way deducted from your spouse’s Social Security. They still get the full benefit they are eligible for, based on the age they start taking benefits.

Do You Always Get 50% Of The Spouse’s Benefits?

The 50% figure is the most you can receive. Just like the choice of what age to retire affects how much money you receive in benefits, when you choose to start spousal benefits affects what percentage you get. If you take at the earliest possible eligibility, currently age 62, you will receive 35% of your spouse’s benefit. If you wait until full retirement age, currently 66 years old, you can get the full 50%. It is a sliding scale for the years 63-65 using an SSA formula.

What About Divorced Couples?

Spousal social security benefits are available to divorced spouses in many cases. A spouse is eligible to take spousal social security benefits from their ex-spouse if they were married for at least 10 years and they meet a few requirements:

  • Your spouse is currently receiving social security benefits
  • The benefits you are eligible for are lower than those you’d receive from a spouse or ex-spouse
  • You are at least 62 years of age
  • You are not currently married to someone else. (You are eligible to receive benefits from the first ex spouse if the second marriage ends. You are eligible to receive benefits from any marriage lasting 10+ years, but only from one of them)

What Is The Maximum Spousal Benefit?

The maximum spousal benefit is calculated for the working years of the spouse. Currently, the maximum taxable income for social security is $137,700, so if a spouse earned that much or more they are qualified to receive $3,790 per month if they file at age age 70. So, 50% of that would be $1,895 per month. That is the absolute maximum possible and your contributions along with the age at which you both retire affects  your potential benefit.

To find the actual numbers you are eligible for, you can visit the Family Benefits section of the Social Security Administration’s website.

Can I Switch My Social Security To Spousal Benefits?

Recent changes to the law mean you can no longer switch from spousal benefits back to your own work record. There is an exception for those born before 1954, but you will want to check into it further before commiting. The method now is to apply for all benefits you are eligible for and you will automatically receive the highest benefit amount.

While we here at Affordable Mediation are certainly not experts in Social Security benefits, we are experts in helping divorcing couples navigate the complex issues around divorce more easily and peacefully and we have the ability to refer you to helpful resources. That is our calling and we are honored to help. If you would like to learn more about Affordable Mediation please reach out to us as soon as possible at 602-714-7447 or visithttps://affordablemediationaz.com/ to learn more.