Marriage, Divorce, or Death: How Does It Affect Social Security Benefits?

Individuals who are retired workers and their spouses who have paid into the Social Security system during their working years can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits monthly. Social security benefits are also available to individuals who are permanently and completely disabled. Major life events such as marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse may have a significant impact on social security benefits.

When it comes to first marriages, the legal union has no impact on collecting Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security benefits are based off an individual’s work and earning history. Each spouse, if eligible, will collect his or her own benefits and the amount each spouse collects does not limit the other can receive.

Remarriages, however, can affect any Social Security benefits an individual is collecting on the record of a deceased or former spouse. If an individual is divorced and collecting spousal benefits on the record of a living-ex spouse, the payments end if she or he chooses to remarry, regardless of age. An individual can only collect those benefits if he or she is single or, again, becomes single.

In some instances when an individual gets divorced, his or her ex-spouse may be able to receive Social Security on their record even if he or she is remarried. This may occur under the following circumstances:

  • The marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • The ex-spouse is unmarried;
  • The ex-spouse is 62 years or older;
  • The Social Security benefits the ex-spouse is eligible to receive based on his or her work and earning history is less than the benefit the individual would receive based on his or her work and earning history;
  • The individual is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, if an individual has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, his or her ex-spouse can receive Social Security benefits on their record if the couple has been divorced for at least two years.

If an ex-spouse is eligible for their own Social Security benefits, Social Security will pay him or her that amount first. Then, if the individual’s benefits amount is higher, will provide an additional payment on the individual’s record so that the combination of the benefits equals the higher amount.

Death of a Spouse
A widower may be able to collect survivor benefits on behalf of a deceased spouse when he or she turns 60 years old. If the individual is disabled, he or she may collect survivor benefits at 50 years old. However, if the individual remarries before reaching 60 years old (50 if disabled), he or she forfeits the right to collecting survivor benefits. For those who remarry after turning 60 years old (50 if disabled), there is no penalty. If an individual gets remarried and then divorced prior to turning 60 years old, he or she can regain eligibility for survivor benefits.

If you or a loved one need assistance applying for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer. The lawyers at Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP have over 50 years of combined experience between its attorneys and are available to you or your loved one in obtaining Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. To schedule a consultation with our New York Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, call (631) 823-7155.

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