If people are married for more than 10 years and then divorce, they might still be eligible to draw on their former spouse’s Social Security benefits at retirement. California couples who are getting a divorce and who are approaching the 10-year mark in their marriage might want to wait until reaching that milestone so that they might have that option later.
In addition to that requirement, there are other restrictions. After remarriage, people forfeit their ability to claim on their ex-spouse’s benefits unless the former spouse is dead and the person getting married is older than 60 or if the person they are marrying also receives survivor or spousal benefits.
People who have more than one ex-spouse they were married to for at least a decade can choose to draw the larger benefit. However, if the former spouse is still alive, the person’s own benefits must be at least 50 percent less than the ex-spouse’s. If the ex-spouse is deceased, then it simply must be less than 100 percent. It is possible to arrange to receive these benefits even if people are not in contact with their ex-spouse as long as they have proof of the marriage and divorce and the ex-spouse’s Social Security number.
An attorney may be able to discuss these and similar issues that a client may not have considered in a divorce. For example, there may be certain procedures that need to be followed in order to divide a retirement account, including the preparation and approval of a qualified domestic relations order. This can be especially important for a person who gave up a potential career in order to take care of household duties during the marriage.