An Arizona resident likely has many questions when he or she is facing divorce. Concerns over property division, alimony, and other divorce legal issues may arise, the answers to which can have a major impact on an individual's post-divorce life. When it comes to property division, many often think of major assets like a home or vehicles, and maybe even retirement accounts, but few think about whether or not they are entitled to a portion of their ex-spouse's Social Security benefits.
Social Security can play an important role for those who are retired. These payments can mean the difference between keeping a roof over one's head and food on the table. Without it, many are left with financial instability. However, in order to qualify for Social Security, an individual typically must have worked and paid into the system. Yet, those who never contributed to the system but were married to someone who did may be entitled to spousal benefits. Therefore, those who intended to rely on Social Security's spousal benefit when they were married may want to seek out the amount to which they are entitled, even if they are divorced.
Typically, in order to recover Social Security's spousal benefit, the couple must have been married for ten years. It is important to note that recovering the spousal benefit will not negatively impact the ex-spouse's benefit, nor does it matter if the ex-spouse has remarried. Also, if qualified, an individual can recover these benefits even if a divorce decree says otherwise. In other words, a divorce decree cannot preclude an individual from receiving Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse.
This is just one complicated aspect of the many that plague divorce. However, though wading through these issues can seem overwhelming, an experienced Tucson family law attorney may be able to help. He or she can help assess an individual's unique situation and provide guidance as to how to best protect his or her financial and emotional interests.
Source: Forbes, "Getting Social Security Benefits After Divorce," John Wasik, July 21, 2014