Social Security Retirement Benefits and Michigan Divorce

When a couple decides to marry and share their lives, they may not be fully aware of the financial amifications of their decision.  After marriage, their financial situations become intertwined.  Whether they elect to merge bank accounts and savings or they keep things separate, the legal truth is that what belongs to one belongs to the other.  This includes retirement plans and even social security benefits.

For young couples seeking divorce that haven’t been married long, social security retirement benefits won’t be an issue.  However, for couples that are older or that have been married quite a while, social security benefits may be on the table.  Here’s what you should know.

The 10-Year Rule

The first thing you need to know is that you are only eligible for a portion of your ex-spouse’s social security retirement benefits if you were married for ten years.  If your divorce occurs before the 10-year mark, you are not eligible to receive any of your ex-spouse’s benefits.

Who Gets Benefits?

When it comes to one spouse collecting on the other’s social security benefits, the lower wage-earner is the party eligible to collect from the spouse with a higher earning record.  However, there is a caveat.  The lower earner is only eligible for up to half of the higher earner’s benefits.  If this amount turns out to be less than the amount available via the lower earner’s own social security benefits, the lower earner will receive his/her own benefits and will not be eligible to receive a portion of the ex-spouse’s social security benefits.

It’s important to note that even if one party receives 50% of an ex-spouse’s benefits, the ex-spouse still receives 100% of benefits.  In other words, the payout is 150% of benefits.  This could be true even if two parties qualify to receive benefits from an ex-spouse (after two marriages of over 10 years each), in which case the policy would pay out 200% (100% to the original wage-earner, plus 50% to each ex-spouse).

Age at Time of Divorce

There are a couple of caveats related to age at the time of divorce when it comes to collecting social security benefits.  The spouse seeking to collect benefits from the higher earner must be at least age 62 in order to apply, must be divorced from said spouse for at least two years, and cannot have remarried before the age of 60.  Even if the higher earner is not yet collecting on his/her social security benefits, whether he/she is still working or not, the lower earner can apply for benefits, provided he/she meets all criteria.

Remarriage

It’s natural to worry that the remarriage of the higher earner would impact the ability of the lower earner to collect on social security benefits.  This isn’t the case.  As long as all criteria are met, the lower earning ex-spouse is eligible to apply for and receive social security benefits, no matter how many times the higher earner remarries, or how long those unions last.

If you think you’re eligible for your spouse’s social security benefits at the time of divorce, speak with a qualified lawyer to ensure you receive all you’re due.  Contact The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190.

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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