For many, Social Security benefits are a much needed source of support as they age. When a divorce is in the works, a Pennsylvania resident may not be fully aware of how that divorce can impact Social Security benefits for a partner who may have not earned enough to qualify for benefits or may have earned less than a former spouse. The length of a marriage is the key to determining whether a person is entitled to Social Security benefits based on the earnings of an ex-spouse.
If a marriage lasted for 10 years or more, a person can claim benefits based on the earnings history of an ex-spouse. This holds true as long as the person seeking Social Security benefits is single. If a marriage lasted less than 10 years, there is no way to claim any Social Security benefits related to the earnings of an ex-spouse.
Concerning when to file for Social Security benefits based on benefits an ex-spouse earned, being divorced can be an asset for those claiming benefits before that ex-spouse actually retires. When divorced, the ex-spouse entitled to benefits can file before their ex-spouse files for benefits. For example, if the ex-spouse who earned the benefits is 62 years old, the ex-spouse who didn’t earn the benefits or who earned less benefits can file at any time regardless of how long the earning spouse waits to claim his or her own benefits.
For younger couples in Pennsylvania, thinking about Social Security benefits may not be on the radar. However, if a marriage lasted past the 10 year mark or if a spouse is on the verge of filing for divorce just before the 10 year mark, knowing rights and benefits at the time of a divorce can help in planning for retirement regardless of how far off that time period may be. Because of the complexities of when to file and how much a spouse may be entitled to, it is vital to get up to date and accurate information before counting on any amount of Social Security benefits after a divorce.
Source: fool.com, “Social Security: How Divorce and Remarriage Affect Your Benefits“, Dan Caplinger, March 28, 2015