Can the Timing of Your Divorce Affect Your Social Security Benefits?

An individual that is eligible for Social Security benefits can obtain benefits in the event that he/she or her spouse files for divorce. Below are two different calculations used to determine the amount the spouse can recover:

  • A calculation based on 100% of his or her earned benefit amount
  • A calculation based on 50% of his or her ex-spouse’s earned benefit sum. This option is only provided if the couple was married for a minimum of ten full years, the claimant has not entered another marriage, and the spouse is at least 62 years of age.

This award does not adversely affect the ex-spouse. In fact, the ex-spouse will still be entitled to collect 100% of her or his Social Security benefit.

According to New Jersey law, a martial partnership is terminated upon the filing for divorce. However, until the subsequent entry of a Judgement of Divorce, a couple remains legally married. In regards to Social Security benefits, the latter of the rules applies, so the date of judgment is utilized to calculate Social Security awards and adjustments.

But, what if an individual has been married for 9 years when he or she files for divorce? The answer is simple. If the judgment is issued six months later, neither of the spouses can claim the 50% ex-spouse benefit because the length of marriage will only be a total of 9.5 years, which makes the marriage six months short of eligibility. Similarly, if a complaint is filed after 9.5 years and the judgment is issued 6 months later, either spouse can apply for the 50% ex-spouse benefit since the marriage will have lasted at least 10 years.

Under this model, an individual who would obtain a greater benefit using the 50% ex-spouse rule would be wise to postpone the entry of a Judgement of Divorce until a complete decade has passed. Because the timing to file for divorce can affect different variables of a person’s life, an individual who is contemplating divorce should contact experienced legal representation right away. A skilled lawyer can examine the individual’s case and determine which strategies can best protect his or her future.

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