The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article recently which explains the impact of divorce and remarriage on receipt of Social Security funds. Nearly 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce, and many retirees are not married because of divorce. Social Security benefits are the main source of income for over 70 percent of unmarried retirees, so it is important for individuals to learn how previous marriages can affect their plans for retirement.
Social Security sends out quarterly statements to help people plan for their retirement and estimate their benefits. However, these statements fail to properly address the impact divorce has on future benefits. In fact, divorced people often make costly errors because they don't understand spousal and survivor benefits, said Leslie Walker, communications director for the Social Security Administration in Richmond, Calif. "The closer you get to retirement age, the more you need to know the rules.
You may claim spousal benefits if you were previously married for 10 years and if your spouse was paying Social Security taxes during that time. If you worked for at least 10 years and paid Social Security taxes, you may be eligible for personal benefits as well. You cannot claim both spousal and personal benefits, but you can claim the option that gives you the larger amount of money.
However, if you remarry prior to turning 60 years old, you become ineligible to spousal benefits from a previous spouse . If you wait to remarry until after turning 60, you can retain rights to spousal or survivor benefits. Most divorce lawyers are incompletely unversed on the impact on a "gray divorce" and collecting social security.
Survivor benefits are a preferred option since you are given 100 percent of your former spouse's benefits as opposed to 50 percent from spousal benefits. If you have been married twice and both of your spouses are deceased, you cannot claim benefits for both spouses. However, you may choose the benefits from the spouse that would pay you the most.