How Does Marriage Affect Social Security Benefits?
By Zachary Mushkatel on April 16, 2013
Marriage and divorce may affect Social Security retirement or disability benefits in several ways. Understanding how marriage and Social Security laws work can help you protect any benefits you may receive in the event that you proceed through a divorce.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows spouses to qualify for both retirement and disability benefits based on either spouse’s work record, particularly if a spouse has no work record of his or her own on which to qualify for benefits. Benefits claimed on a spouse’s work record are known as “derivative benefits.
The criteria required for collecting derivative benefits differs depending on the type of benefits sought. For instance, when spouses have been married at least ten years, one spouse may collect derivative retirement benefits based on the full amount of benefits the working spouse receives. These derivative benefits total one-half of the full benefit’s amount available to the working spouse. Also, ex-spouses may continue to claim derivative benefits even if the working spouse remarries, as long as the marriage lasted at least ten years.
Ex-spouses claiming disability benefits based on a spouse’s work record face similar requirements. In both cases, the amount of benefits based on the ex-spouse’s work record must be higher than the amount of benefits the claiming spouse would be eligible for on his or her own record. If the person’s own work record would allow for a higher benefits amount, the SSA will pay based on this record rather than that of the former spouse.
If you have questions about divorce and its effect on benefits you receive, please contact the focused Phoenix family law attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. Your initial consultation with our office is free and confidential.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.