Social Security Benefits and Divorce

If you were married for ten years or more, divorce in NJ does not terminate your entitlement to your ex-spouse’s Social Security Benefits. Your remarriage would terminate the entitlement, but it would attach to your new spouse. If the following marriage ends by divorce, annulment or death, the first entitlement might re-attach. Your spouse’s remarriage has no impact on your entitlement to collect part of their benefits.

In order to collect the benefits, you would have to be at least 62 years old and your own Social Security Benefit must be less than you would receive through your ex-spouse’s work record. If you meet the qualifications, you would receive one-half of your ex-spouse’s benefits. Your ex-spouse does not receive any notice of your doing this.

When Can I Collect My Ex-Spouse’s Social Security Benefits

Anyone can begin receiving Social Security Benefits at the age of 62, or can choose to delay collecting. The longer you wait, the higher the annual amount received. After you reach the age of 70, there is no longer a rate increase for delaying benefits. These are important factors in determining when you choose to start collecting in view of your ability to receive Social Security Benefit through your former spouse.

For example, if your spouse has reached 62 and has not yet sought benefits and you meet the qualifications, you can make application for your share of your ex-spouse’s benefits and delay receiving your own benefits. You can also do the opposite. Do not forget, though, that the earlier you collect, the less you will receive and that there are limitations on earned income while receiving Social Security Benefits.

At the time of your divorce in NJ, there are no special orders or papers required for you to later receive your share of your ex-spouse’s Social Security Benefits.

No Impact on Ex-Spouse’s Benefit if You Collect

As odd as it sounds, your collecting your portion of your ex-spouse’s Social Security Benefits has no impact on the amount your ex-spouse will receive when he or she applies. In fact, it does not even have an impact on your ex-spouse’s new spouse collecting or your ex-spouse’s children receiving benefits should they be under 16 when your ex-spouse passes.

If Your Ex-Spouse is Deceased

If your ex-spouse is deceased, as long as your marriage lasted ten years, you may receive Social Security Benefits on your ex- spouse’s record. You should be able to receive his full benefits and may collect them when you are 60, 50 if you are disabled.

Even if your marriage did not last ten years, you may still be entitled to benefits if:

  • You still care for your ex-spouse’s child or children
  • The child or children have not reached the age of 16 years, or is disabled
  • The child or children are receiving benefits on the work record of your ex-spouse
  • Your benefit is a type of payment for caring for the child or children
  • Your benefits will terminate when the youngest child reach the age of 16

You have to apply for benefits. None of this happens automatically. When you contact the Social Security Administration for any of these benefits, they calculate the benefits for which you are eligible, providing you with the highest amount possible. The choices of your benefits would be your own benefits as a worker, your benefits as a spouse, ex-spouse, widow or ex-widow. The benefits are not added together.

If you need to discuss divorce in NJ and social security issues, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free consultation at 201-845-7400.

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*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances