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Social Security eligibility for divorced spouses

When Texans are wanting to divorce, they may want to wait until they have been married for 10 years if possible. This is true especially in situations in which one spouse has had a significantly higher income than the other because of future Social Security benefits.

A divorced spouse is able to claim Social Security retirement benefits based on their ex-spouse's earnings record if they were married for at least 10 years. The Social Security Administration is very strict about this durational requirement, meaning a marriage that was even a few days shy of reaching the 10-year point will not allow a spouse to receive benefits based on their spouse's earnings.

Similarly, a divorced spouse who was married to their spouse for 10 years is also eligible for Social Security survivor's benefits if their former spouse passes away. Married people who have been married for at least nine months when one spouse passes are also eligible for survivor's benefits as long as they are still married at the time of the death. If a spouse is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits based on their former spouse's earnings record, they will receive no more than 50 percent of the monthly amount that their spouse would be eligible to receive.

Thinking through various divorce matters, including the future ability of both spouses to retire comfortably, is one important aspect of successfully navigating the end of a marriage. People should remember their future Social Security eligibility when they are thinking about their ability to retire in the future after they are divorced. If couples are near the 10-year mark for their marriage, they may want to hold off on divorcing until they pass that milestone. This can help with the future ability of both spouses to retire. A person who is wanting a divorce may want to seek guidance about timing from a family law attorney.

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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