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Financial Viability After Divorce: Social Security Options for Older Divorcees


As an elder facing divorce, you may be feeling some trepidation about maintaining the standard of living to which you’ve become accustomed during your years with your spouse.  To be sure, a divorce means a sharing of assets, and both partners will be looking at significant adjustments in most scenarios.  However, in Maryland the courts are asked to consider an equitable distribution of marital property, meaning there isn’t necessarily a 50:50 split of assets and debt. The age, health, and earning ability of each spouse will be carefully weighed as property distribution is determined, as well as the length of the marriage and other factors.  Additionally, you may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on the earnings of your spouse.

Getting a Piece of the Pie 

Many older individuals who are divorced do not realize that they are entitled to a portion of benefits that were earned by their former spouse.  Luckily for everyone involved, taking advantage of this does not impact the amount to which your former spouse or their current spouse is eligible to collect.  Because you can file for benefits completely separately from any business involving your ex, it can be one more source of income that you can access with little hassle or complaint.

How Much are We Talking About? 

In the event you’d like to apply for benefits at your full retirement age you may be eligible for 50 percent of the amount for which your spouse is eligible.  Again, this will not impact the amount your former spouse may collect.

If you have earned retirement benefits of your own through Social Security, those benefits will be paid first.  Your former spouse’s record, if greater than yours, will be added on to that initial amount. However, individuals born prior to 1954 and who are now at full retirement age may choose to file for a former spouse’s benefit and wait for a later date to collect their own benefit. 

Basic Rules 

Eligibility rules to receive spousal  benefits are pretty black and white:

  • You were married for at least ten years;
  • You must be legally single—if you remarry the benefits will stop;
  • Your ex has earned either retirement or disability benefits through Social Security;
  • You are eligible for a greater amount based on for your former spouse’s work history than on your own;
  • You are 62+ years of age;
  • If you meet the qualifications and your former spouse is eligible for but not yet claiming benefits, you may still apply for benefits if you’ve been divorced for two years or longer.

Navigating Your Divorce

 As you approach divorce, there are often all sorts of questions, financial and otherwise.  At the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, you’ll find Baltimore divorce lawyers who will present you with the best options for your future.  Contact our office for a confidential consultation today.



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