By Jennifer M. Paine
Attorney, Cordell & Cordell, P.C., Detroit office
Here is an overview of the Social Security Act’s divorced spouse Social Security retirement benefits to consider as you contemplate divorce, negotiate your settlement, or select the date to make your decree effective.
In this final part, we’ll address two questions:
- Do divorced spouse retirement benefits terminate if I remarry?
- How can I learn more?
Do divorced spouse retirement benefits terminate if I remarry?
Yes, usually. Unless the recipient remarries someone who also receives derivative Social Security benefits (i.e., benefits based on another’s history), the Social Security Administration will terminate the benefits. For example, Tom will lose his divorced spouse retirement benefits if he marries breadwinner-CEO Susan, who did not qualify for them because her primary insurance amount was greater than her traveling artist, low-earning ex-husband, but Tom would not lose his benefits if Susan were the low-earning ex-spouse who did receive the benefits.
So, while it is possible for a married couple to receive retirement benefits based on each’s ex-spouse’s primary insurance amount, usually qualification for retirement benefits terminates at remarriage. See 20 CFR 404.332.
How can I learn more?
To learn more about the Social Security Act, the Social Security Administration, or how to apply, visit the Social Security Administration’s website at http://www.ssa.gov.
To learn more about the laws and how they may affect you, however, talk to an attorney. If you already have an attorney, have you discussed the ten year marriage requirement? Has your attorney analyzed your potential qualification for divorced spouse retirement benefits as you negotiate a settlement? Have you included them in your post-divorce budget? Has your attorney provided you with resources, such as pamphlets or websites, to help you learn more?
If your answer to any of these questions is “No,” speak up and ask your attorney, “Why not?” Remember, your attorney works for you and should answer these questions, but in your partnership, this client-attorney relationship, you have to ask the questions you need answered. If you do not have an attorney, now is the time to locate one. Call your state bar association for no- or low-cost services. Be sure an attorney analyzes your case so that you are confident, moving forward in your divorce, of your decisions and how they will affect you during retirement.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.