Whether you have retirement accounts and a pension plan or not, Social Security retirement benefits — along with Medicare benefits — often play an important part in everyone’s financial plans for their golden years.
If you’ve never worked outside the home or have only a limited work history, you may have expected to obtain benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record. Now that you’re getting divorced, however, your spouse might want you to give up your right to those benefits for any number of reasons.
Can you be forced to do that? In short, no.
Spousal benefits are a federal entitlement
Essentially, it comes down to this: entitlements to federal benefits can’t be granted or denied by a state court. Even if you signed an agreement saying that you’ll forgo the benefits, such an agreement would be invalid.
You’re entitled to a divorced spouse’s benefits when your ex-spouse retires if all of the following are true:
- You were married for 10 years or longer.
- You are currently unmarried.
- You are 62 years of age or older.
- Your entitlement to benefits on your own work record is less than 50% of what your ex-spouse receives.
Furthermore, your ex-spouse need not worry about lost benefits should they remarry in the future. Your entitlement to benefits will not reduce or affect a married spouse’s benefits in any way.
What’s the bottom line?
Disguntled spouses sometimes make a lot of demands during the divorce process that are neither reasonable nor possible — but you shouldn’t let those demands intimidate you. Knowing more about your rights can help you negotiate a divorce agreement that’s fair.