Social Security exists to help provide people with financial security during their retirement years. In Virginia, there are many married couples who, when they are ready to retire or plan to do so in a few years, end their long-time marriages for various reasons.
When a marriage lasts more than 10 years, the person who earned the least often can use his or her spouse’s lifetime earnings to calculate the Social Security benefits he or she may receive. The goal of Social Security is to partially fund retirement for both spouses based on the income of the primary wage earner. The shared benefit does not reduce the benefit amount for the primary earner.
Conditions for using ex-spousal earnings for Social Security
Certain laws determine when an individual can draw Social Security benefits from his or her ex-spouse’s earnings. The marriage must have lasted a minimum of 10 years, and the earner has to be at least 62 years old or qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Some people who were married more than once may have lifetime earnings that are claimed by more than one ex-spouse to calculate their Social Security benefits. If each marriage lasted a minimum of 10 years, and the ex-spouses were not the primary earners, the primary breadwinner’s earnings are used to calculate the benefit.
Social Security benefits are not automatic
If a divorced individual remarries, that person cannot use his or her ex-spouse’s lifetime earnings to claim Social Security benefits. Someone who has made more lifetime earnings than a former spouse also cannot use that person’s lesser income to obtain a Social Security benefit. Such a benefit would be lower, anyway, so that typically is not a problem.
Social Security is just one retirement asset
Social Security is just one of many types of retirement assets that could become a contentious issue during a divorce. If you find yourself among many divorcing couples embroiled in Virginia family law cases over retirement assets, a highly experienced local law firm can be of terrific help. You can better understand how the law affects you and how to present the best case and evidence.