A divorce is rarely an uncomplicated process. There are many financial and logistical decisions which must either be made by the divorcing couple or litigated in court, and when emotions come into play as they are sure to do, an already tricky process can become even more difficult to navigate. Because of this, certain common elements of the divorce process are often overlooked, such as the receipt by one or both divorcing parties of Social Security Disability benefits, and whether a portion of such benefits should be awarded to one party or the other in the divorce settlement.

According to the Social Security Administration, if a party meets certain requirements, he or she may be entitled to receive lifetime payment benefits based on their ex-spouses receipt of various Social Security benefits. Divorcees who seek to receive benefits based on an ex-spouse must first determine whether they are entitled to receive benefits of their own based on disability or retirement. If so, they must then decide whether they want to receive their own benefits or their ex-spouse’s.

Under SSA requirements, a marriage must have lasted for at least ten years and a couple must have been divorced for two years in order to receive benefits based on either party’s earnings record or disability. In addition, the potential recipient must be at least 62 years old, must not have remarried, and must satisfy certain additional requirements.

There are many options for those who may want to receive the SSD benefits of an ex-spouse. For example, divorcees may choose to receive their ex-spouse’s benefits now and receive their own benefits at a later date, or may choose to receive a combination of their own and their ex-spouse’s benefits. However, there is a retirement benefits earnings limit applies. Potential recipients should contact a Social Security Disability attorney or the SSA for more information about these options and limitations.

Source: Huffington Post, “Divorced and Retired: Don’t Forget the Social Security Benefits”, Gabrielle Clemens, 19 January 2011