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How Does Marriage Affect Social Security Benefits?

By Zachary Mushkatel on

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.