How Your Charleston Divorce Can Affect Your Social Security Benefits

If you are thinking about getting divorced in Charleston, SC, you may want to think again. Likewise, if you are on the verge of a second marriage, you may be overlooking a major financial consideration. This is particularly true if your spouse has a high income.

To ensure your best possible financial future, you should ask your Charleston family law attorney how your divorce or remarriage may affect your eligibility to receive Social Security benefits.

You can receive Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s income if you get divorced and your spouse earned significantly more than you. This retirement benefit is commonly known as the “spousal Social Security benefit.” If you can satisfy the requirements for receiving spousal Social Security benefits, you will be able to receive up to 50 percent of your ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement benefit. This could mean an extra thousand dollars or more in income for you each month after you reach the age of 62.

Your spousal Social Security benefits may be one of your more valuable assets. If you get divorced or remarry at the wrong time, you could lose your right to receive those spousal Social Security benefits. An ill-timed divorce could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars when you will need it the most.

Requirements For Receiving Spousal Social Security Benefits As A Divorced Former Spouse

You can qualify to receive spousal Social Security benefits after your Charleston divorce, if you satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Your marriage lasted at least 10 years. Timing is everything when it comes to spousal Social Security benefits. If you get divorced after being married 9 years and 11 months, you will receive nothing. Conversely, if your divorce becomes final on your 10th wedding anniversary, you will qualify for full benefits.
  2. Your former spouse is entitled to receive Social Security or disability benefits. You will not be eligible for spousal Social Security benefits, if your former spouse does not qualify to receive Social Security retirement benefits.
  3. You must remain unmarried after your divorce. If you remarry, you will lose your right to receive spousal Social Security benefits, unless the subsequent marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.
  4. You are 62 years old or older. If you get divorced when you are 55, you will have to wait until you are 62 to claim your spousal Social Security benefits.
  5. You can receive spousal Social Security benefits only if you would receive a lesser Social Security benefit from the work that you performed before retirement. You must choose between the amount of retirement benefit that you have earned from your work or 50% of the retirement benefit that your former spouse has earned.

Your former spouse and your divorce judge cannot keep you from receiving your spousal Social Security benefits, if you meet these statutory requirements. When you apply for spousal Social Security benefits, you will need to provide copies of your marriage certificate and final divorce decree. If you marry more than once and stay married each time for longer than 10 years, the Social Security Administration will see that you receive the highest benefit for which you are eligible.

You May Have Other Social Security Benefits As A Divorced Spouse

In deciding when to apply for Social Security retirement benefits as a divorced spouse, you will have many decisions to make. One of the more significant decisions will depend on when you should apply to receive those benefits. As a divorced spouse you can start receiving Social Security benefits when you reach age 62 and continue receiving those benefits without affecting your personal retirement benefit. You can wait until you are 70 to receive your full Social Security benefit.

If you are the divorced spouse of a person who dies, you are also eligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits the same as a widow or widower. If you remarry after your reach age 60, your remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits upon the death of your former spouse.

The Social Security also law permits persons caring for a child under the age of 16 to receive Social Security survivor benefits. The under-16 child exception may be utilized only if the child is the natural or adopted child of your deceased former spouse.

If your former spouse claims spousal Social Security benefits because of your marriage, it will not affect the amount of Social Security benefits that you will receive.

Further, if you remarry and stay married for 10 years or longer, your new spouse can claim spousal Social Security benefits, even if your first spouse also claims spousal Social Security benefits on the basis of your work history.


I am here to protect your rights and save your assets in your Charleston divorce.

My hope is that you will entrust me with what is most important in your life.

As an experienced Charleston divorce lawyer, I can answer your questions about a South Carolina divorce and division of marital property. To speak directly with me, please call me now at 843-631-7117.

Alternatively, please use the contact form to ask me any questions that you may have regarding your Charleston divorce case. I will be quick to respond.

Working together, we will protect your assets and build a better future for you and your children in Awendaw, Charleston, Daniel Island, Goose Creek, Isle of Palms, James Island, Johns Island, Kiawah Island, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Seabrook Island, Sullivan’s Island, Summerville, West Ashley or another Lowcountry community.

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