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Can Your Ex-Spouse Sabotage Your Retirement?

No. Or rather, he can’t prevent you from drawing Social Security benefits off of his work record as long as you qualify. To qualify, you must have been married for at least 10 years, not have remarried before the age of 60, be at least 62 years old, not be working full time (if you choose to draw before your full retirement age between 66-67), your former spouse must be at least 62 years old too and 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefit must be more than 100% of your own benefit. You won’t be getting both your own and part of your ex-spouse’s benefit. With Social Security, you only draw one benefit, whichever amount is higher.

I’ve heard from many women that they were told in their divorce that they gave up the right to their former spouse’s “retirement.” They assumed that this meant they could not draw Social Security retirement benefits off their ex-spouse. Sometimes their former spouse is the one pushing this idea. It is wrong. It is impossible to give up your Social Security rights. You may have waived your rights to his work pension, but not Social Security.

Nothing gets men madder in the comment sections on my social media platforms (you can find me on Tik Tok @MedicareMama) than when I explain how to draw spousal benefits. But if your former spouse draws benefits off of your work record, it in no way reduces the benefits that you are able to draw, nor does it reduce what your current spouse is able to draw. It just doesn’t matter. Ok, I’d be furious if my ex-spouse drew off my work record but I was smart enough to divorce him before 10 years were up.

While I am joking (just a bit) this is something you need to consider: if your marriage is falling apart and you were the lower income earner, or a stay-at-home parent who didn’t pay into Social Security at all. Please consider not finalizing your divorce until you hit the 10-year mark. It’s truly sad to explain to my clients that they are not eligible for spousal benefits because they were only married 9 ½ years. Divorce attorneys should advise on this topic so benefits are not inadvertently lost.

Unlike drawing Social Security off your current spouse (even if you are separated), you can draw benefits off a former spouse as long as you are age 62 and he is age 62. He does not have to be drawing Social Security, for you to be able to draw. If you are married, you cannot draw off your spouse, unless your spouse is also drawing benefits. Clearly you can see that this law had to be there so former spouses could not block benefits by refusing to draw Social Security out of spite.

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