What Happens to Social Security Benefits in a Divorce?

When people get divorced in Tennessee, all property and assets that either spouse acquired during marriage must be split “equitably,” with limited exceptions. Assets subject to division include certain benefits that can be received through work, like a 401k account. Individuals who are entitled to Social Security benefits may also be required to share those benefits with an ex-spouse.

Eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible to receive a portion of an ex’s Social Security funds, you and your ex’s marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and you may not be currently married. Someone who is entitled to a larger Social Security benefit than his or her ex-spouse is not entitled to take any portion of the ex-spouse’s benefits.

When are benefits received?

You must be at least 62 years old to begin withdrawing Social Security benefits. If your divorce has not been final for at least two years, you may need to wait longer, either until your ex stops working and starts withdrawing payments or until you have been divorced for two years.

Benefit amount

It behooves people to wait until they are 66 or 67 to begin withdrawing Social Security payments; benefits taken out before that age will be less than the full amount. If you are entitled to divorce benefits, you will receive an amount equal to the greater of your portion of your ex’s benefits and your own benefits; you will not be entitled to both. Additionally, your spouse will only be required to pay the amount that exceeds your own benefits. For instance, if your benefit amount is $400 and your ex’s benefit amount is $1,000, meaning you would be entitled to a total of $500, you would receive the $400 first and then another $100 for the divorce benefit. If you and your soon-to-be ex are far from retiring, you may want to ask a divorce attorney how to anticipate the division of Social Security benefits in the future.

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