Divorce and Social Security benefits from an ex-spouse

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2020 | Blog, Family Law |

There are several myths and misunderstandings surrounding drawing Social Security benefits from an ex-spouse’s earnings record after divorce. For example, some people may think that drawing these benefits will reduce the benefits that will be available to the ex-spouse. However, this is not the case. Others may think they will get their ex-spouses’ benefit as well as their own. It is important for people in Wisconsin who are getting a divorce to understand these benefits, so they can adequately plan for retirement.


First, people’s marriages need to last at least 10 years for one spouse to draw from another’s benefits. With this in mind, some couples who are close to the 10-year mark may want to wait until they have been married a little over 10 years so that one spouse can claim these benefits if necessary. The spouse who is claiming the benefits cannot do so until the age of 62. This individual must also not have remarried, and his or her own benefit must be less than what he or she is eligible for under his or her ex-spouse’s benefit. Finally, for a person to start drawing benefits, either his or her ex-spouse must be claiming them, or the divorce must have been finalized for at least two years, and the ex-spouse must be eligible for benefits even if he or she is not yet claiming them.

How much is the benefit?

A spousal benefit is half of the benefit the ex-spouse is eligible to draw. It can only be claimed if it is more than what a person would receive based on their own earnings record. If his or her ex-spouse dies, a person can draw 100% of that person’s benefits if it is higher than his or her own. If the ex-spouse has remarried, the benefits available to the new spouse are not affected. In other words, multiple people can draw on one person’s record.

Ensuring financial security during retirement can be an important aspect of planning how property is divided in a divorce, particularly if the individuals are close to retirement and have less time to rebuild their retirement savings. A family law attorney may help an individual through the property division process in divorce negotiations.