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Can I get Social Security if I divorce my spouse?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2023 | FAMILY LAW - Family Law, SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY - Social Security Disability

There are many reasons why Maryland couples may choose not to divorce. One of these reasons is financial stability.

Although you know that your marriage is over, you could fear that a divorce would disrupt your financial security or cause you to lose out on important financial benefits, such as Social Security retirement payments, if your spouse was the one working or earned a higher salary than you.

The good news is that you could be eligible to continue receiving Social Security retirement benefits as well as Social Security Disability (“SSDI”) benefits after your divorce. The law states that divorced spouses could receive up to half of the wage earner’s full benefit amount.

Your spouse’s full benefit amount will depend on factors such as their income, work history and if anyone else is receiving a portion of their benefits.

Eligibility requirements

You must meet several requirements to qualify for a portion of your spouse’s payments. Your former spouse must qualify themselves for the benefits.

You must be age 62 or older and not married. You must have been married to your former spouse for at least 10 years before your divorce was finalized and you must have been divorced for at least two years.

Therefore, although you might eventually qualify to receive the benefits, you will have to wait two years after your divorce before you can receive benefits. This can be difficult, especially since the first few years of being on your own after your divorce could be the most financially straining.

There are potential ways to solve this problem, such as your spouse paying you two years of alimony until you can apply for Social Security benefits. While there is no specific law on an amount of alimony in Maryland, some courts follow the general guideline of awarding one year of alimony for every three years of marriage.

The final requirement is that you must not be entitled to your own Social Security benefits in an amount that is greater than your former spouse’s.

Applying for benefits

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for benefits. The application process involves submitting information and certain documents, so it can be helpful to work with an attorney when applying. You can appeal a denied application, with which an attorney can also help.

Divorce is often the best option for everyone involved, particularly in what has been termed “gray” divorces, which are divorces involving older couples. When you have been with someone for many years, or even decades, you often know when it is time to move on.

Do not let the fear of losing your financial resources be the reason that you continue to stay in a bad marriage, when you deserve a better future. As you can see, there are options out there. Talking with a divorce attorney about your situation can help you learn what options are best for you.