Client Profile

My mother, Caroline, is 67 years old and will soon amicably divorce my stepfather. Currently, she receives spousal Social Security benefits and shares his pension payments. How will this change, if at all, when the divorce becomes final?

If your mother’s marriage lasted 10 years or longer, she can continue to receive benefits on her ex-spouse’s record. As a spouse, she gets a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse’s benefit. So, if her benefits as a spouse are higher than her own retirement benefits, she gets the spousal benefits, minus any extra credits for her spouse’s delayed retirement.

This benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of the ex-spouse’s full retirement amount, if payments begin at normal retirement age. In other words, your mother should continue to receive the same Social Security benefits as long as she does not remarry.

Most states consider pensions a joint asset of both spouses and typically divide them with other assets upon finalization of the divorce. However, your state’s court will make the final determination, so make sure your mother hires an experienced divorce attorney.

Client Profile is based on a hypothetical situation. The solutions discussed here may or may not be appropriate for you.