The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC Legal Blog

Divorce, an ex-spouse and Social Security benefits

Finances are a primary concern for many people about to end a marriage. A change in lifestyle is usually inevitable after a divorce, and making ends meet may require some support. Even if a Texas resident receives spousal support, he or she may decide to take advantage of another source of income to supplement it — Social Security benefits.

Under certain circumstances, a divorced Texas resident may have the ability to receive benefits based on the employment record of his or her former spouse. In order to pursue benefits in this manner, the parties must have been married for a minimum of 10 years. The individual may collect half of the benefits to which an ex-spouse’s record entitles him or her. If the ex-spouse is deceased, the surviving former spouse may collect 100% of those benefits.

If an individual did not know this prior to the divorce and signed away his or her rights to Social Security benefits in a divorce settlement or decree, he or she can still collect the benefits since these clauses are rarely enforced and are not important to the Social Security Administration. Even if the former spouse remarries, the individual may still use the former spouse’s employment record to obtain benefits — even if another spouse is also doing so. The individual receives the higher of benefits based on his or her own record or the record of the ex-spouse, not both. In addition, if an individual has more than one former spouse, he or she may still only collect benefits based on one employment record.

For Texas residents going through a divorce, it may help to understand all of the rules regarding obtaining Social Security benefits based on a former spouse’s employment record. This understanding could help with the preparation of a post-divorce budget, especially if the parties meet other criteria such as age. A family law attorney could answer any questions regarding this and other financial matters associated with the divorce process.

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