How Are Social Security Benefits Impacted by Divorce in Florida?

Spousal social security benefits are payments a spouse receives based on their current or ex-spouse’s work record.

The Social Security Administration gives monthly payments to qualified recipients if their current or former spouse is eligible for retirement or disability benefits. The federal Social Security Act states that spousal benefits can reach 50% of a spouse’s retirement benefits.

Unlike retirement accounts that can be opened at age 60, divorced spouse benefits may be claimed at 62, but reaching the full retirement age (FRA) of 67 unlocks the maximum benefit amount. Those with children aged 16 or under receiving disability support may claim early.

If the marriage lasted less than ten years without divorce, spousal social security benefits cannot be claimed.

Though Florida follows an equitable division of assets, spousal benefits are not split. However, in a divorce, social security benefit rules ensure that an ex-spouse will receive appropriate payments based on their ex-spouse’s work history.

Does a Spouse Get Half of Social Security Retirement Benefits in a Divorce?

No, a former spouse doesn’t automatically receive half of their working spouse’s social security benefits in a divorce.

When dividing retirement benefits during a Florida divorce, traditional retirement accounts like 401ks, Roth IRAs, and pensions are treated as income. Therefore, they can be divided between the ex-spouses.

However, Social Security benefits cannot be divided in divorce because they are considered a government-administered social insurance program rather than individual accounts or assets.

According to Section 404.331 of the Social Security Administration Code of Federal Regulations, a divorced spouse’s benefits can be claimed if the applicant meets all eligibility rules.

Note that a spouse can only collect benefits if they were married to the working spouse for a minimum of 10 years before the divorce.

How to Collect Social Security Based on the Work Record of Your Former Spouse (Spousal Benefits)

To collect benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record, the process involves the following steps:

  1. Ensure Eligibility: A divorced spouse qualifies for 50% of spousal benefits if their ex-spouse is eligible for Social Security retirement or disability payments.
  2. Apply for Social Security Benefit Payments: The ex-spouse considered the primary earner must apply for their own benefits online, by phone, or through a local Social Security office.
  3. Provide Documentation: Submit identification documents, such as the marriage certificate or divorce decree.
  4. Wait for Verification: After applying and submitting documents, there is a maximum of one year processing time.
  5. Receive Benefits: Once approved, an ex-spouse begins receiving spousal benefits on a monthly basis.

Some strict rules and limitations must be followed for an ex-spouse to receive benefits. These are the common regulations from the Social Security Administration:

  • If a divorced spouse receives benefits while working, they must follow an annual limit. Exceeding the limit results in deductions.
  • An ex-spouse with custody of a minor aged 16 or under claiming any disability benefit may apply before reaching their own full retirement age.
  • If an ex-spouse passes away and they were the primary earner, the living ex-spouse can claim survivor benefits up to 100% from their former spouse’s record.
  • Survivor benefits do not require spouses to reach ten years of marriage or the FRA. Recipients can transfer amounts from this type to their own benefit later on.
  • Delayed retirement credits only apply to an individual’s work record, not their ex’s.

Upon reaching full retirement age (FRA), a divorced spouse will claim benefits equivalent to 50% of their ex-spouse’s retirement savings account.

If a divorced spouse is entitled to benefits based on their own work record, those amounts will generally be given first.

Additionally, if one of the divorced spouses is entitled to a higher benefit, the other may receive a supplementary amount from the spouse’s record.

Because different divorce situations affect the spousal benefit amount, it is important to maintain records such as an ex’s social security number and their own earnings record.

A divorced person may consult their local Social Security office to clarify rules and know how much Social Security benefits they may be eligible for.

What are the Requirements to Collect Spousal Benefits from Social Security?

The following requirements must be met to claim spousal benefits from Social Security:

  • The marriage lasted ten years or longer.
  • A divorced spouse must have legally separated from their ex-spouse for at least two years.
  • The applicant is unmarried.
  • The applicant is at least age 62 and older.
  • The applicant’s ex-spouse must be entitled to claim their Social Security retirement benefit or disability payments.
  • Any government support payments from one’s own record are less than the monthly benefit amount from their ex-spouse’s record.

Note that the same rules that make the received amount half of the ex-spouse’s benefit apply to survivor benefits.

The money awarded to the living former spouse does not affect the ex-spouse benefits and those their current spouse receives.

The maximum family rule applies if a divorced couple has other dependents and all parties rely on government payments within an ex’s record. This limits the amount all dependants can receive, usually ranging from 150-180% of one’s full retirement benefit.

How are Spousal Benefits Calculated?

The primary insurance amount (PIA) must first be clarified. The PIA is the monthly retirement benefit one receives if they claim it at full retirement age. A spousal benefit is 50% of an ex-spouse’s PIA and is not affected when the other spouse claims their own retirement benefit.

For instance, spouse A files for their retirement benefit at age 62. Since it is below the full retirement age, their retirement benefits are smaller than their PIA.

Their spouse, spouse B, receives 50% of spouse A’s PIA. This means filing at the earliest age of 62 is inadvisable during retirement planning since both amounts would have been larger if spouse A filed at their full retirement age.

The following factors may cause benefit deductions:

  • If an individual has their own record proving they already claimed social security.
  • Filing before the full retirement age causes reductions.
  • If one receives a government pension not covered by Social Security, the spousal benefits are reduced as a government pension offset.
  • If the maximum family rule applies.
  • If one is working while receiving spousal benefits while under the full retirement age, the amount may be reduced if their total earnings exceed the benefit amount.

Filing early leads to a percentage reduction: 25/36 of 1% per month for the first 36 months and 5/12 of 1% for each additional month.

If spouse B files early at 65 with a full retirement age of 67, they are 24 months early. Therefore, the formula is as follows:

  1. 24 months x 25/36 of 1% = 16.67%
  2. 100% – 16.67% = 83.33%
  3. (50% of spouse A’s PIA – spouse B’s PIA) x 83.33%
  4. Amount from step 2 + spouse B’s retirement benefit = spouse B’s total monthly benefit

Note that factors besides age, like dependent numbers and working history, may be eligible for further reductions on an ex-spouse’s retirement benefit.

Can You Collect Spousal Benefits While Still Working?

Yes, spousal benefits can be collected while one is still working, but there are earnings limits if they have not reached their FRA.

Deductions will occur if an individual’s income is above the set earning limits.

However, once they reach their FRA, there are no earnings limits, and they can continue working while receiving their full benefit payments without any reduction.

Remember that the amounts depend on an ex’s work record and social security history. Both may be affected if the primary earner applies while still employed.

When Can You Start Collecting Spousal Benefits?

An individual can start collecting spousal benefits as early as age 62, but the amount they receive will be reduced if they claim it before the FRA of 67.

If a person waits until they reach their FRA to claim the payments, they can receive their full entitled amount. Delaying beyond the FRA can increase the payment amounts to a maximum at age 70.

This rule also applies to divorced spouse benefits. For widowed ex-spouses, the rule is more lenient, allowing an early filing.

What Happens to Spousal Benefits if You Remarry?

If an ex-spouse remarries, they typically lose eligibility for spousal benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record.

However, if the later marriage ends due to death, divorce, or annulment, the remaining spouse may regain eligibility from their former spouse’s record.

Remember that any amount received in spousal benefits does not affect the benefits of an ex’s current spouse or the ex’s benefit.

Reviewing all existing records to know the exact amounts each spouse will receive.

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