Social Security and Divorce

The most important hurdle in divorce for Social Security purposes is the so-called “10-year rule.” Briefly, if you and your spouse stay married at least 10 years before you divorce, the lower-paid spouse may be eligible for a spousal benefit on the earnings of the higher-paid spouse. And it won’t cost the higher-paid spouse anything. (Now does anybody want to know why Social Security is in trouble?)

So if you and your spouse have been married almost 10 years, and if one of you has been enjoying an income substantially greater than that of the other, it may be worth it to wait for the 10 years to run before your divorce is effective.

There’s a great primer on Social Security at the web site of a law firm in Oregon, Johnson, Cram, Harder & Wells. And here’s a list of Social Security resources from Nolo Press.

Social Security will create an account for you and give you your Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) online. You can check out the many other resources available on the Social Security home page. In any event, you can still get order your PEBES online and have it sent to you by snail-mail. Here’s the link to that page.

And here’s a quick summary from a U.S. government publication of a few issues women face with Social Security.

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