Does a divorce impact Social Security retirement benefits?

Posted by Zachary A. VanDykeDec 10, 20210 Comments

Maybe you have worked for decades and balanced your regular contributions into a retirement savings account with the Social Security retirement benefits you expect to receive. It's also possible but you are a dependent spouse who hasn't contributed much to Social Security in recent decades.

In either situation, you may find yourself wondering whether filing for divorce will impact your right to claim Social Security retirement benefits. What will divorce mean for your benefits?

If you are a dependent spouse

If you sacrificed your own career advancement to support your spouse's professional ambitions, you gave up earning potential to help the family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the financial rights of dependent spouses after a divorce.

You can potentially make a claim against your ex's accrued Social Security retirement benefits if you don't have any accrued benefits of your own. If you worked during your marriage but earned less than your spouse, you may be able to claim supplemental benefits based on what your ex accrued with the SSA.

If you are the spouse with the higher income

If you have worked your entire adult life to support your family, the idea that you can lose some of your retirement benefits might frighten you. You could fall short of the amount of income you need to actually pay your bills during retirement without the amount you've expected to receive.

Thankfully, the SSA will not reduce the benefits you receive if your spouse also makes a claim for benefits based on your income. Understanding the different factors that influence financial matters in your divorce can help you plan for the future.