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Qualifying for divorced spouse Social Security benefits

Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration awards spousal benefits upon retirement even after a divorce. A person considering a divorce in California might wish to be informed about the standards that must be met in order to collect a Social Security spousal benefit.

For a person to qualify, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. Any amount of time less than that will exclude a man or woman from making a claim upon an ex-spouse's Social Security earnings record. This issue could be especially important in marriages in which one spouse made significantly less than the other. For example, a stay-at-home mother who earned no income for several years might only have a small benefit within the Social Security system. If her marriage ends after the crucial 10-year mark, then her retirement benefit could be based on her spouse's lifetime of earnings. The difference could be significant.

The 10-year rule also applies to benefits for a surviving divorced spouse. When an ex-spouse dies and that person made more money than the other person, then seeking Social Security benefits as the surviving divorced spouse could be worthwhile.

Retirement benefits represent only one factor that a person needs to consider when facing the end of a marriage. Consulting with an attorney who practices family law could illuminate other issues that must be addressed by the divorce decree. An attorney could inform the client about parenting rights and how the law might guide the division of property. Legal counsel can also often be of assistance in negotiating a comprehensive settlement agreement and then presenting it to the court for its approval.

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