Social Security payments and divorce

When Texas couples get a divorce, one of the parties might be able to draw Social Security payments based on the work record of the other. However, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years for this to be the case.

There are several other factors that affect a person's eligibility to draw on a spouse's earning record. The person drawing the payment must remain single. In some cases, if the person remarried but that marriage ended as well, the person could still be eligible. Both people must be at least 62 years old, and the divorce must have happened at least two years earlier.

Usually, drawing spousal benefits is only possible when one person has made significantly more than the other. The amount a person will receive in Social Security payments is calculated by taking the monthly average of the best 35 earning years of the person's working life. This is called the Primary Insurance Amount. To check for spousal benefits, the total PIA for a person is subtracted from 50 percent of the spouse's PIA. The remaining number is the amount the ex-spouse will receive. A negative number indicates no additional benefit. A person will receive more by waiting until the age of 67 and in some cases 70. The other person's benefits are not reduced by payments made to an ex-spouse.

A person who has been the lower earner in the marriage may receive other payments as well. For example, Texas is a community property state, so the high earner's retirement account may be considered shared property and divided by the two even if only one person contributed to it. A lower earner might also be paid alimony. This could be permanent or it might be limited to a certain period of time such as while the recipient trains for a new job.

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