Among the most prominent trends in divorce over the last ten years has been the later-stages of life at which spouses are choosing to separate and divorce. When you choose to divorce later in life, issues involving retirement accounts, pensions, and social security benefits become increasingly salient. Understanding your rights and responsibilities with regard to these critical components of your financial life is essential to maintaining a secure financial future. In this week’s article, we will thoroughly examine the issue of social security as it relates to divorce.
First and foremost, It is important to note that social security is not subject to the same policy as other types of retirement funds. For instance, when you and your spouse divorce, your pensions, retirement accounts, investments, 401ks, and other forms of marital property will be subject to equitable distribution during the division of assets process. These accounts are generally considered “marital property,” and thus, must be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally.
Social security benefits are governed by a different set of requirements after divorce. In New Jersey, the necessary criteria to collect some portion of your former spouse’s social security benefits after divorce are as follows:
- You must be at least 62 years of age
- Your marriage must have lasted for a period of at least 10 years
- You must be currently unmarried
- You must not be entitled to your own social security benefits that exceed the amount of your former spouse’s
Social security is a voluntary, opt-in program, which means that you or your spouse must claim your benefits. If your spouse chooses not to claim his or her benefits, you are still entitled to claim these benefits if you meet the aforementioned criteria. In the unfortunate event of your spouse’s death, you are still entitled to claim his or her benefits if you meet the requirements outlined above.
So, how do you actually obtain your former spouse’s social security benefits if you are entitled to them? The process is rather straightforward. Simply visit the United States Social Security Administration website, provide some general personal information and the following documents: your birth certificate, proof of citizenship, tax documents from the previous year, marriage certificate, and final divorce decree. With these few steps, you are well on your way to receiving social security benefits.
For additional information about divorce-related issues in New Jersey, contact the Hackensack law offices of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark at 201-397-1750 for a cost-free consultation with one of our highly knowledgeable New Jersey divorce lawyers. We regularly assist clients in Hackensack, Teaneck, Fort Lee, Paramus, Franklin Lakes, Mahwah, and throughout Bergen County with all facets of the divorce process.