There have been big changes recently that may affect the Social Security benefits of divorcing couples. As either or both spouses age, they are increasingly likely to consider their (and their soon-to-be ex-spouse’s) Social Security benefits when going through a divorce.
Previously, a former spouse was able to make an independent decision on when to file for Social Security benefits. Those decisions were based on age, length of the marriage, current marital status, and the entitlement to benefits. For example, you may want to file based on your former spouse’s benefits rather than your own if it would entitle you to receive more. Importantly, a potential filer would not have to base their decision on whether their former spouse had already filed for benefits. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
Under the revised law, in order to base your benefits on a former spouse, that former spouse must already be receiving benefits. As a result of this change, many divorcing couples will now need to discuss various Social Security claiming scenarios with their lawyer and at their mediation.