Divorce: Social Security and Financial Freedom
Brick and Sea Girt Divorce Attorneys Help You Achieve Financial Freedom
Social Security benefits are distributed in a divorce and orient toward financial freedom in the wake of a divorce.
The ins and outs of divorce are complex and often complicated, especially where New Jersey state law relates to divorce and intersects with federal law regarding the distribution of government benefits. One example is in the case of Social Security benefits.
How are Social Security benefits distributed after a divorce?
According to Section 202 [42 U.S.C. sec 402] of the United States Social Security Act, a spouse or divorced spouse of a person receiving Social Security benefits is entitled to a share of those benefits. Of course, there are conditions to distribute government benefits, and these are collectively known as the Social Security Ten Year Rule.
The Social Security Ten Year Rule reflects the Social Security Act’s mandate that a couple must have been married for at least 10 years for the spouse to be eligible to receive a share of the entitled party’s old-age benefits. This calculation of the ten-year period is laid out in the section of the Social Security Program Operations Manual entitled “Divorced Spouses.” According to this section, the marriage officially begins on the day of marriage. It ends on the day the court finalizes the divorce, not on the day that the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part. This federal law notes that the ten-year period after which a person is eligible to receive a share of an ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits may be truncated by divorce, as long as a legal remarriage occurred. The Ten-Year Rule goes into effect two years after the marriage’s finalization lasting at least 10 years. This means that an ex-spouse can begin receiving a share of the benefits only after the divorce is two years old.
Additionally, the spouse or ex-spouse must abide by additional criteria:
- The spouse/ex-spouse must apply with the federal Social Security Administration.
- The working spouse must be at least 62 years old.
- The ex-spouse cannot be remarried (in the case that the spouse and the qualifying Social Security recipient are divorced).
- The spouse/ex-spouse cannot have accrued more Social Security benefits than the eligible partner.
A ‘share’ of the benefits does not mean that Social Security benefits constitute part of the fair and equal distribution of assets in a divorce. According to New Jersey Statutes N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, because it is assumed that alimony, or spousal support, payments terminate when the working ex-spouse reaches full retirement age, it is unlikely that Social Security benefits will be included as part of the support.
Establishing financial freedom after divorce
Regardless of your age or how long you were married when you decide to divorce, there are ways that you can begin to establish a financial footing in the presence of an oncoming divorce. The first way to orient yourself towards financial freedom is to separate your income from your spouse. Because there are many ways in which income comes to the marital household, from one spouse earning the entirety or significant portion of the marital income to both spouses earning near-equal incomes, separating the incomes will bring clarity about what one can expect will be their spousal-support and/or child support duties or the length for which they can expect to receive such support. Having a clear understanding of each spouse’s separate financial positions allows for discernment in the next steps taken personally, professionally, and financially. If you choose to invest in a financial consultant during this time, they will be able to advise you on how to grow a financial portfolio to support the transition and your financial future through investments and benefits from your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits, as outlined above.
Just as separating incomes provides clarity, separating tax filings will also help you to make informed decisions moving forward. Because moving from filing taxes with the Internal Revenue Service together with your spouse – which saves the household money – to filing as ‘Single’ on tax returns means the person will be responsible for paying more in taxes, wasting no time in making this move will provide foresight that will allow you to augment your financial decisions appropriately.
Contact a Wall Township, NJ Finance, and Divorce Law Attorney to Build a Plan for Life after Divorce
At Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our team of experienced family law attorneys supports clients Toms River, Point Pleasant, Wall, Jackson, and the surrounding areas in all matters of divorce, including Social Security benefits distribution and other assets division.
To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced member of our team regarding your divorce, please feel free to fill out the online form or call our Brick or Sea Girt office at (732) 812-3102 to learn more about your legal options.