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Divorced spouses may be eligible for Social Security benefits

People in New Jersey who are divorced or who are getting divorced may wonder how that divorce affects their Social Security benefits after retirement. If the couple was married for at least 10 years, then a lower-earning person may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on the ex-spouse's earnings records. The amount a divorced spouse can receive is up to 50 percent of the full amount that the other spouse would earn on reaching full retirement age.

However, it is necessary that the 10 years be consecutive. For example, in the case of one couple who was married for nine and a half years, they wondered whether the wife could receive spousal benefits if they remarried for six months. This was not possible because the 10 years would not be consecutive.

If a couple is married for at least nine months at the time of one spouse's death, the other spouse is eligible for 100 percent of the deceased spouse's Social Security benefits as a widow or widower. A divorced spouse is also eligible to receive death benefits, but only if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years.

If a stay-at-home spouse has been married for nine years and a few months and is considering filing for divorce due to irreconcilable differences, that spouse may want to wait until the marriage reaches the 10-year mark to file. If a divorce is amicable, a couple who is nearing the 10-year mark may also want to delay divorce proceedings. People who are considering divorce may want to meet with an attorney to discuss these and other financial implications that they may be unaware of. It is best to go into this initial consultation with as much information about household income, debts and assets as possible.

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