By: Lisa Greenwood Duffee
Understanding retirement benefits as part of the divorce process can be in increasingly difficult. Many people are aware of 401(k) and IRA accounts and how they are divided in a divorce, but the question of whether one is entitled to any of their ex-spouse’s social security benefits may not be one people consider. Fortunately for those who may not have paid much personally into social security over the years, there are options for claiming social security system benefits of your ex-spouse.
To be eligible to apply for benefits from your former spouse you must meet the following criteria: (1) you were married to your ex-spouse for 10 years; (2) you are at least 62 years old of age; and (3) you must not be currently remarried – (if you do get remarried after claiming benefits, your benefits will end but can resume upon a later divorce or death of your subsequent spouse).
To claim benefits, you must wait for two years from the date of divorce. You do not have to wait for your ex-spouse to retire; you can claim benefits as long as you are at least 62. Once you reach your personal full retirement age (as determined by the Social Security Administration – you can find your personal full retirement age based upon your date of birth at www.ssa.gov ), you may elect to receive 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefits. One important caveat to keep in mind – if you paid into social security during your working years and would be entitled to benefits of your own, the Social Security Administration will only pay you the higher amount of either 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefits, or the full amount of your benefits.
This means that if you had a career during which you paid into social security, you probably would collect more on your own benefits than you would receive as part of your ex-spouse’s benefits. If you did not pay into social security, however, (i.e. were a stay-at-home parent for many years, or your job paid into a private pension), then being able to elect for the 50% share of your ex-spouse’s benefits could be an extremely helpful source of additional income. You are entitled to these benefits regardless of whether or not they were awarded to you in your Decree of Divorce.
If you are divorced already and would like more information regarding retirement age and social security benefits, visit www.ssa.gov. If you are considering divorce or currently going through the process and would like counsel, don’t hesitate to contact the legal team at Duffee + Eitzen, who would be more than happy to be your advocates in or out of the courtroom.
About Lisa Duffee:
Lisa Duffee, founding partner of Duffee + Eitzen LLP, efficiently represents her clients as a family law attorney- negotiating and securing financial settlements in divorce, complex property division, and custody cases. She has practiced law in the Dallas area for over three decades, representing clients in jury trials and bench trials. Prior to her transition to family law in 2000 Duffee was a partner at 2 large Dallas law firms, handling complicated business and real estate litigation matters. With experience in collaborative law, Duffee employs compassionate spirit, business acumen, and innovative problem-solving skills to assist clients in reaching their goals. She is known for seeking resolution through negotiation, facilitation of communication, and a clear understanding of the client’s end-goals. The results minimize expense, emotional toll, and psychological impact. Her respectful demeanor and empathy for clients affirm her reputation as a discerning advocate.
Duffee is rated as a Best Lawyer in Dallas by D Magazine, Best Lawyers America: Collaborative Law and Family Law, and LawDragon top 500 Leading Family Lawyers, Top Ten Dallas Family Law Attorney