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How divorce can affect Social Security

| May 22, 2019 | divorce and family law

When Virginia couples decide to divorce, there are some effects on Social Security that they may benefit from learning about. Since 96% of American workers are part of the Social Security system, these issues can affect a large number of people. There are some specific provisions of the system that are designed to protect spouses, including those who have been out of the workforce or served as homemakers. People with low earnings or no history of income can collect up to half of their spouse’s full benefits under Social Security.

In some cases, people may lose access to that program after a divorce but not if they were married for a longer period. Even more, accessing these benefits does not affect the other spouse’s benefits. People who were married for at least 10 years can claim benefits from their former spouse, even if the latter has married again. In order to do so, there are a few criteria that people must meet; they must themselves be currently unmarried and aged older than 62. In addition, their benefits under the former spouse’s Social Security must be greater than their own. For people who start collecting benefits before full retirement age, they will see the same reduction as someone collecting their own benefits.

Although people must be unmarried to collect on their former spouse’s benefits, that doesn’t mean they have to never have remarried. If they married again but are now widowed or divorced, they can still receive Social Security based on their former spouse’s benefits.

The former spouse doesn’t need to lose out on benefits when this happens; the benefits come from the Social Security fund, not from his or her benefit check. People considering a divorce might want to meet with a family law attorney to learn more about this aspect of the process.