If a former husband or wife was married at least ten years to their former spouse and have reached the age of 62, the former husband or wife may be eligible to claim spousal social security benefits.
A recent blog post on Lawyers.com found here elaborated on this often-overlooked benefit in divorce matters. In the simplest terms, those who may claim spousal Social Security Retirement benefits on a former spouse’s benefits are: (1) the parties must have been married for at least ten years; (2) the person claiming benefits is at least 62; (3) the person claiming benefits is not remarried (in most matters); and (4) the person claiming spousal benefits is not entitled to apply for a higher benefit on his/her own record at the same time as the application for spousal benefits is made.
Some important considerations should be made in whether to make such a claim. For starters, examine whether the former husband/wife is going to qualify at a higher rate. The hyperlinked blog post outlines several other key strategical points one should make in pursuing this benefit.
While on the subject of Social Security benefits, it is important to note that the benefits are not able to be divided by a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or other court order. Many states, however, permit the benefits to be considered when allocating marital property during a divorce; for instance, the benefits could be valued and considered as part of the marital estate. For instance, if the value of one spouse’s Social Security benefit is valued at $100,000 and the marital residence is valued for the same amount, these two items could offset each other. If there were other retirement assets, those plans could then be divided by way of a QDRO or other court order necessary for the division of the benefit; for instance, a State of Ohio pension is divided by way of a Division of Property Order (DOPO), a FERS or CSRS pension must be divided by a Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP), and a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) must be divided by a Qualifying Retirement Benefits Court Order.