A divorce can be difficult under any circumstances, but perhaps even more so when you’ve been a stay-at-home parent who is now nearing retirement age. You’ll likely have questions about common divorce issues such as property division and spousal support, but what about social security benefits?
Social security and ex-spouses
Social security benefits are automatically available to those who have an established work history and have paid into the social security system. But many married couples choose to have one spouse enter the workforce while the other remains at home to care for their children and maintain the household. The stay-at-home spouse has no work history and has not paid into the system.
The Social Security Administration understands this dilemma when you divorce and you will not be left out in the cold. You can claim benefits based upon the work history of your ex-spouse, so long as you were married for at least 10 years and you have not remarried. The amount of the benefit you receive will depend upon the amount your ex-spouse is entitled to, but your benefit cannot be more than 50% of their benefit.
In some cases, the stay-at-home spouse will have some work history and qualify for at least some benefits on their own. When this is the case, Social Security pays your personal benefit first. But if that amount is less than what you would receive if you claimed benefits on your ex-spouse’s work history, Social Security will pay the difference so that the total equals the larger benefit. Whatever amount you collect, it will not affect the benefit received by your ex-spouse.