When Marriage Costs You Social Security Income

Divorce
Photo by Elnur / Shutterstock.com

Getting remarried can ding the Social Security benefits you stand to earn in retirement.

The effects of remarriage, as well as divorce, on Social Security income are among the many quirks of the system that it pays to understand, even well ahead of retirement. Like other aspects of Social Security, though, it’s not exactly straightforward.

Divorce: Potentially beneficial for the spouse who earned less benefits

If you get married and remain with the same person for the rest of your life, Social Security retirement benefits are relatively simple. When the time comes, each of you will have the standard options for claiming your respective amounts of Social Security income.

If you divorce, however, Social Security becomes more complicated — and potentially beneficial to you if your ex racked up more in Social Security benefits over the course of his or her working life.

As we explain in “10 Hazards of Divorcing When You’re Older,” you may be eligible to receive half the amount of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits — provided you meet several requirements.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), if you meet the following requirements, you may be able to collect half of what’s known as your spouse’s “full retirement amount” of Social Security:

  • You are entitled to Social Security benefits.
  • The marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • You are unmarried.
  • You are age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on his or her own work is more than the benefit he or she would receive based on your work.

Important to note: The benefits your ex-spouse gets has no effect on the amount of benefits you (or your future spouse) may receive. In other words, anything received by your ex doesn’t reduce what you’ll get.

Remarriage: Potentially costly for the spouse who earned less benefits

It’s upon remarriage that things get more complicated — and potentially costly for whichever of the original two spouses racked up less in Social Security benefits based on his or her own work.

Let’s say John and Jane were married for at least 10 years before splitting. Let’s also say that, upon divorce, Jane became eligible for half the amount of John’s Social Security benefits.

Now, if Jane remarries, she risks losing her first husband’s benefits. SSA explains:

“If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).”

In reality, it can be more complicated than this, based on your own individual circumstances. But it’s safe to say that your Social Security benefits are something to consider not only well ahead of retirement, but ahead of a marriage, divorce or remarriage.

So, if you’re considering divorce or remarriage, it may be worth sitting down with a qualified financial adviser or perhaps a divorce lawyer.

If you have yet to determine the optimal Social Security claiming strategy for you, check out “Maximize Your Social Security.”

What’s your take on this? Sound off below or over on our Facebook page.

Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn't have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset's free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you're ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

Read Next
The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money
The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money

These home improvement projects basically never pay off.

7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

These items can end up costing you more if you try to go the cheap route.

How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Comments

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.

Trending Stories