A spokesperson for the press office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) confirmed in a recent interview that a divorcee may collect from a former spouse's Social Security benefits under certain circumstances. After divorce, a currently unmarried person who is at least 62 years old can collect from a former spouse's benefits if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. The applying spouse must not be eligible for a higher benefit on his or her own record. These rules apply in Illinois and nationwide.
An additional requirement is that the former spouse must be currently eligible for benefits even if he or she has not yet applied for them. If that is the case, the parties must have been divorced for at least two years. Also, the applying spouse is entitled to collect even if the former spouse is now remarried. The SSA further explained that if the applying spouse has remarried, he or she generally cannot collect benefits unless the later marriage has ended (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
The option to collect on the other's account is also beneficial because a divorced person can choose to receive the former spouse's benefits now and delay receiving his or her own benefits until later. Under that selection, the individual may receive higher benefits later on based on the SSA's issuance of 'delayed retirement credits'. Importantly, the amount of benefits a divorced person gets has no effect on the former spouse's right to receive his or her full benefits amount.
If an Illinois resident is contemplating a divorce, it is important to consider these laws and others when making his or her pre-divorce planning decisions. He or she should keep in mind that there are various state and federal laws that can possibly come into play after the divorce is final. It is always beneficial for a person thinking about divorce to become fully informed about these matters in order to avoid giving up any rights or remedies that may be available.
Source: CNNMoney, "How does divorce affect Social Security benefits?" Dec. 31, 2012