Considering the Impact of Tennessee Divorce on Social Security
Have you thought about the impact of Tennessee divorce on Social Security benefits? If you have been married for nine years and are contemplating divorce, you may want to stick it out to year 10 before the divorce decree is handed down. Here’s why…
The Magic Number – SSA’s 10-Year Rule
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) 10-year rule is important to anyone considering divorce. For a divorced individual to receive benefits based on the former spouse’s earnings record, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years. This presumes, of course, that the divorced spouse is not entitled to a higher benefit under his or her own work record.
Remarriage Changes Eligibility for Spouse’s Benefits
For many couples, the divorce is about the freedom to remarry and the potential for future happiness. Too many people are surprised to learn that remarriage eliminates eligibility for spouse’s benefits under their ex’s work record.
Consider the woman who was married 15 years before divorcing. After the divorce, she would be eligible for spouse’s benefits under her ex’s earnings record – the 10-year rule is satisfied. If she marries someone else, however, then her entitlement shifts to her new spouse’s work record, even when that record provides less in benefits. When the new spouse’s work record is equal to or better than the former’s, then everything is great – no problem. But when the new spouse has been unemployed for a lengthy period or has a sporadic work history, that is not so great.
Of course, she always has her own work record to rely upon. But for many women who stayed home to care for the children only to end up divorced later, that may not be sufficient to live on. In fact, she may not even have an earnings record.
Unmarried with a Better Work Record
The divorced individual can satisfy the 10-year rule, yet still be ineligible for SSA retirement benefits under the ex’s earnings record. This is precisely what happens when that individual’s work record entitles him or her to a higher benefit. Sex has nothing to do with this – one’s work record is built upon years of paying into the Social Security system.
Qualifying for Survivor Benefits
When newlyweds have been married for nine months, they can relax a little knowing that Social Security Survivors Benefits are available in the event of one spouse’s death. According to the SSA, there are “about 5 million widows and widowers receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings record.” Obviously, many of those individuals were divorced from their now-deceased former spouses.
Those survivor benefits are available when the widow or widower turns age 60 (early retirement means reduced benefits) or reaches full retirement age with full benefits. For the disabled adult, benefits may be available at age 50.
The first question people ask is “What is full retirement age?” Well, that depends. For purposes of survivor benefits, a widow born in 1957 reaches full retirement age at 66 plus two months. If born in 1962 or thereafter, then full retirement age is 67. However, if the marriage ends before its first decade comes to a close, then there will be no survivor benefits and no spouse’s benefits. Once again, 10 years is the magic number.
Approaching Divorce Strategically
In the SSA’s own words, “the rules are complicated.” Indeed, there may be many exceptions to the rules implementing benefits coverage. Be sure to seek competent legal advice before committing to a divorce plan that could affect your Social Security benefits and future lifestyle.
Ten years may seem like a lifetime for those wanting out of a bad marriage, but that’s the SSA’s line in the sand. Smart divorce planning includes a thorough analysis of both parties’ eligibility for Social Security benefits. This is also important to divorce strategy.
Consider the spouse who desperately wants to marry someone else, while the other spouse is content to let the 10-year-clock run to assure more in Social Security benefits. This is precisely the stuff that comes up during divorce negotiations, especially when the issues are division of property and Tennessee alimony.
Memphis TN Alimony Lawyer
To learn more, read Tennessee Alimony Law in Divorce | Answers to FAQs. Also, for legal updates, news, analysis, and commentary, see our Tennessee Family Law Blog and its Alimony category. A Memphis divorce lawyer from the Miles Mason Family Law Group can help. To schedule your confidential consultation, call us today at (901) 683-1850.
About Miles Mason
Memphis divorce attorney and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. JD, CPA founded the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. The firm practices divorce and family law only representing clients living in Memphis, Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, Eads, Shelby Co., Fayette Co. Tipton Co., and the surrounding west Tennessee area. For more information, see our Meet the Team page.