Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

How Does My New Jersey Divorce Effect My Social Security?

For as long as I have been a New Jersey Divorce Attorney, I have always been asked questions relating to social security benefits. Particularly, my clients are often interested in knowing whether or not they can collect benefits after they go through a divorce. Please enjoy the following piece, which provides answers to the most common questions I am faced with. If you have further questions regarding this topic, please do not hesitate to contact my office today.   

What if I have been married for years and now am divorced? Can I get social security benefits on my former spouse’s work record?

This is definitely the most common question my office is faced with routinely. Of course it is possible to collect a portion of your former spouse’s retirement benefits. Retirement plans, pensions, etc are all assets that are subject to equitable distribution, and therefore, you are entitled to receive benefits as well. However, before you can receive some of these social security benefits, you must meet a number of requirements. To qualify, you must: (1) have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years; (2) be at least 62 years of age; and (3) be unmarried and not entitled to a higher social security benefit on your own work record.

What if my ex-spouse is at an age where he or she is eligible to receive his or her retirement benefits but does not claim the benefits? Can I still get my benefits?

Yes, once your ex-spouse becomes age eligible, you too are entitled to receive the social security benefits. The only requirement is that you must already be divorced for two years before you can collect any of your former spouse’s benefits.

Are the social security policies gender-specific?

Definitely not. The social security policies and rules do not favor men or women. Both ex-wives and ex-husbands are equally entitled to receive a portion of their former spouse’s benefits.

Am I still entitled to get a portion of my former spouse’s social security benefits if he or she dies?

This is probably the second most common questions I am asked on a daily basis by my clients. The answer is yes, you are still able to collect social security benefits of your ex-spouse even if he or she passes away. However, this entitlement is conditioned upon the following: (1) you must have been married to your former spouse for at least ten years; (2) you must be at least sixty years of age, or fifty years of age if disabled; (3) your ex-spouse must have been eligible to receive social security in the first place; and (4) you cannot collect a higher social security payment on your own work record.

How do I apply to receive my former spouse’s social security benefits?

Applying is very simple. You can go online to socialsecurity.gov and provide the following requirement documents to prove that you are entitled to receive your former spouse’s benefits: (1) birth certificate or proof of birth; (2) proof of citizenship; (3) W-2 forms or self-employment tax forms for the last year; (4) marriage certificate; and (5) a final divorce decree.