As a Cobb County divorce attorney, many clients ask me what the Social Security consequences would be if they were divorced. Many questions need to be answered.
Experts at AARP and the Social Security Administration provide this information:
- If you are age 62-plus, were married 10 years or more, and are currently unmarried (and you are not entitled to receive a higher benefit based on your own work), you can receive benefits based on your ex’s earnings, even if he or she remarried.
- If you both worked, the lower earner may receive benefits based on the higher earner’s work.
- If you never worked, you can collect benefits on your ex’s work, and your ex is still eligible to collect what he or she has earned over the years.
- If your ex hasn’t yet applied, but qualifies for benefits, you can still receive benefits if you have been divorced for two years.
- You can collect a divorced spouse’s benefits without reducing the amount of your ex’s benefit.
- The longer you wait to collect divorced spousal benefits, up to your full retirement age, the higher your benefit will be.
Is there a question that this information doesn’t cover? Visit http://JustAnswer.com/Social-Security.
Phoenix, Arizona, divorce attorney Scott D Stewart, who writes an Arizona Divorce Attorney Blog, recently published an article on the issues faced by older couples, usually where one or both of the spouses are over 50. He notes that Al and Tipper Gore's divorce has caused many Baby Boomers to examine their own marriages and has many of them wondering how this could happen. But it does happen, and for many different reasons. As an Atlanta and Marieta divorce lawyer, I have also seen an increase in the number of my cases involving Baby Boomers.
Mr. Stewart notes that aside from the emotional aspects} of a divorce, an older couple should also analyze various problems that affect them solely as a result of their age and stage of life. The years in which they earn the majority of their income usually behind them, so careful attention must be paid to in evaluating and dividing their assets, which typically include their home as their primary residence, retirement accounts, investment portfolios and the like. If the divorcing couple is retired, dividing up the retirement assets can be complex. Typically they will need to have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a separate court order that covers the division of retirement benefits.
Mr. Stewart also points out that other decisions must often be made, including:
• Can one spouse receive survivor benefits if the other spouse dies?
• When can each spouse receive benefits and how can they avoid tax penalties?
• Who is entitled to retirement plan contributions made following the divorce?
• If any loans have been taken out against a retirement plan, how that should be repaid before assets are divided?
Social Security benefits cannot be divided in a divorce, but rules about them can affect post-divorce income and standard of living. For example, if a wife is over age 62, and the couple’s marriage lasted for over 10 years, she can collect benefits after the divorce on her former husband’s earnings record without a reduction in benefits to the husband.
If the former husband dies, the wife may be entitled to survivor benefits – 100 percent of the former husband’s Social Security benefit. To qualify, the marriage must have lasted 10 years, the surviving spouse must be at least 60, and that spouse cannot already be entitled to benefits that are equal to or greater than those of the former spouse.
As in Mr. Stewart’s case, in our Marietta, Georgia, family law practice, we've seen that the question of who gets the house also takes on greater significance when our clients are older. If your home has lots of equity, you could use that equity for a reverse mortgage when you reach age 62. Reverse mortgages are popular vehicles for older Americans to generate income.
Eligibility for tax benefits, exemptions and waivers also have greater significance for older clients in divorce cases.
Not 65 yet and not qualified for Medicare? Getting individual health insurance will likely be another issue you will face. Are you covered under your spouse's employer-provided insurance? COBRA laws will allow you to stay covered for up to 36 months following a divorce, but you will usually be responsible for paying those premiums. There are national organizations for seniors which offer individual health insurance coverage for members, and those groups may be a good place to start if you need to look for new individual coverage.
If you are older (over 50) and facing a divorce with these issues and others, we are here to consult with you and guide you through the process. We are happy to help couples of any age face a divorce with dignity and grace, in deference to all those years you shared a life together. Because many such clients are parents and grandparent together, we also urge those clients to take a careful look at collaborative law and mediation as a better means than litigation to resolve these issues.
SOURCE FOR ARTICLE: "Divorce After 50 – Unique Issues Older Couples Face," by Scott David Stewart, pupublished at Avvo.com and JDSupra
Newlyweds and the recently divorced should make sure that names on their tax returns match those registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch between a name on the tax return and a Social Security number (SSN) could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.
For newlyweds, the tax scenario can begin when the bride says "I do" and takes her husband’s surname, but doesn’t tell the SSA about the name change. If the couple files a joint tax return with her new name, the IRS computers will not be able to match the new name with the SSN.
Similarly, after a divorce, a woman who had taken her husband’s name and had made that change known to the SSA should contact the SSA if she reassumes a previous name.
It’s easy to inform the SSA of a name change by filing Form SS-5 at a local SSA office. It usually takes two weeks to have the change verified. The form is available on the agency’s Web site, http://www.ssa.gov/, by calling toll free 1-800-772-1213 and at local offices. The SSA Web site provides the addresses of local offices.
Generally, taxpayers must provide SSNs for each dependent claimed on the tax return. For adopted children without SSNs, the parents can apply for an adoption taxpayer identification number, or ATIN, by filing Form W-7A with the IRS. The ATIN is used in place of the SSN on the tax return. You can download the form or order it by calling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) toll free at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).
Source: Internal Revenue Service
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Even after you’re divorced, you can still qualify for spousal benefits as long as you are at least 62 years old and were married for at least ten years, are unmarried now and are not eligible for a higher benefit based on your own or someone else’s Social Security record.
As a spouse, you can receive up to 50% of your husband’s full Social Security benefit — or less if you take benefits before your full retirement age (see this age-reduction chart for details).
Or you can receive benefits based on your own earnings history, if the number is higher. To calculate how much you could qualify for benefits based on your own earnings history, see the Social Security Administration’s retirement benefits calculator. You can also receive a benefit estimate by calling Social Security at (800)772-1213.
The amount the divorced spouse receives in benefits has no effect on how much the worker and any new spouse receives. For more information about Social Security and divorce, see Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse.
Here is a summary of how Social Security works for ex-spouses:
• A divorced spouse may receive Social Security benefits based either upon his or her own contributions or possibly as a spouse or ex-spouse of a contributor.
• If a divorced spouse was married for ten years or more, he or she can collect either fifty percent of the value of the ex-spouse’s benefit, or one hundred percent of his or her own benefit, whichever is greater.
• The divorced spouse must be at least 62 years of age and unmarried.
• The divorced spouse must have been divorced for at least two years before he or she can start collecting from the contributing ex-spouse, unless the ex-spouse is at least 62 and already receiving benefits.
• If the divorced spouse remarries, he or she is no longer eligible for a percentage of the benefits from the previous ex-spouse. If the remarriage terminates, the divorced spouse once again becomes eligible for benefits from the previous ex-spouse.
• There is no reduction in benefits for the primary contributor even though the ex-spouse receives the value of a percentage of his or her benefits.
• If the contributing spouse is deceased, the surviving ex-spouse can collect benefits at age 60 as long as he or she has not remarried.
It is helpful to be aware of the 10-year marriage rule if you are just months short of that magic number and seeking a divorce.