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How Social Security benefits are paid after a divorce

Divorced Michigan residents may rely heavily on Social Security benefits for their retirement. However, these benefits alone are usually not enough to cover a person’s full expenses. If a divorced retiree earned significantly less money than an ex-spouse during their respective work histories, they could be entitled to receive a larger amount of SS benefits.

A taxpayer could potentially receive a portion of an ex-spouse’s SS benefits if the two were married for at least 10 years. However, one’s individual SS benefits must be less than those of their ex. Individuals must wait until they’re at least 62 years old to begin withdrawing any benefits; although, that amount will increase if the person waits until full retirement age (FRA), which is around 66 or 67 based on date of birth.

If someone is entitled to benefits from an ex-spouse but the ex-spouse is still working, that person will be unable to claim any portion of those benefits until the ex-spouse begins withdrawing payments, unless the couple’s divorce was finalized at least two years ago. Another condition of receiving part of an ex-spouse’s SS benefits is that a person’s own benefits cannot exceed the amount of the ex’s benefits. This means that someone who has a $900 monthly benefit gets nothing from an ex with a $1,200 monthly benefit. This is because the maximum that can be taken is 50%, and $900 is greater than half of $1,200 ($600).

When all conditions are met, a person will first receive their own benefit amount and then a supplemental amount from the ex’s benefits. For example, someone with a $600 monthly benefit whose ex has a $1,500 monthly benefit would receive $600 from their own benefits and an amount up to $150 from the ex. Divorcees with questions about their benefits may want to consult with a family law attorney.