Most young couples marry in full anticipation of growing old together. But life is complicated. Sometimes, as couples grow older, they grow apart rather than together. And, sometimes, they divorce. Among the many things that must be considered in a divorce, it is important to think about the future-including retirement in general, and Social Security benefits in particular. What effect, if any, does divorce have on these benefits?
In order to answer this question, first we must consider the benefits to which married persons are entitled under Social Security. Married persons have the right to apply for:
Benefits based on their own contributions to Social Security over their lifetimes;
Spousal benefits based on their spouse’s contributions to Social Security, so long as they are at least 62 years of age and their spouse is receiving (or is eligible to receive) benefits. This sum can equal as much as half the amount of the spouse’s retirement benefit; and Survivors’ benefits based on their deceased spouse’s contributions to Social Security. This sum can equal the full amount of the deceased spouse’s benefit.