I hear this question time and again, from both the working and non-working spouse.
Here is the most important and good news, which often surprises my clients. For the working spouse, the amount of benefits your divorced spouse gets has no effect on the amount of benefits you or your current spouse may receive. That means that you as the working spouse will get your full benefits and your ex-spouse will ALSO receive 50% of those same benefits.
Yes, the government is paying 1.5 times if you and your spouse divorce provided that you meet the requirements to receive the benefits.
The Social Security Administration is very clear in how it describes the benefits:
If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your social security contributions (even if you have remarried) if:
- Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
- Your ex-spouse is unmarried.
- Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
- The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
- You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
If you have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based upon your record if you have been divorced for at least two continuous years.
If your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record, Social Security will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
The bottom line is:
For the non-working spouse: If you did not spend as much time in the workforce as your spouse, have not remarried, and are concerned about being penalized, you are entitled to up to approximately one half of your ex-spouse’s benefit based on the amount of the benefit you would be receiving on your own. And the working spouse will still receive their full benefit.