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Social Security: Will a Past Divorce Come Back to Haunt You With Lower Family Benefits?

If you're divorced and you've read about the Social Security program, then you likely know that your ex-spouse may be entitled to benefits stemming from your work history. But will this affect how much your current family receives? Fortunately, the answer is "no."

Under the Social Security system, a retired worker's family isn't only entitled to the worker's monthly benefits; they're also entitled to benefits of their own.

In the first case, a current spouse can receive up to 50% of the primary beneficiary's benefits depending on when he or she decides to receive them. On top of this, a retired worker's children may also qualify, assuming they're unmarried and under age 18.

The catch in all of this is that the Social Security Administration caps the amount a household can receive at between 150% and 180% of the retired worker's primary insurance amount (this is the amount you get at 66).

With this in mind, you'd be excused for concluding that an ex-spouse's benefits will be factored into this analysis. But as Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield explains in the following video, this fortunately isn't the case.

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Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (32)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 11:57 AM, eyeforeye42 wrote:

    Absolutely. I know of a case where a state worker cried discrimination at everything she thought was owed to her or despite she was an awful worker. A real head problem! Lo an behold she up an marries a person with a death penalty conviction. Best scenario is she wanted a legal name change for what ever reason she has. Stays married for 10-15 years when lo and behold the death sentence is ruled unconstitutional and the fellows conviction is x years to life and as his good behavior in prison is in his favor, he calls up his "wife" and says honey, I'm out of jail next week, I'm coming home. She instantly files for divorce and gets it. 5 years later she is up for retirement with all the benefits and guess who shows up for his cut? Mr. X Jailbird and low an behold he gets his cut out of her retirement. Story ends well for all but the not so nice woman with the head problems.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 3:28 PM, greyhound44 wrote:

    I was married (to the same woman) for nearly 28 years with 3 children and have been divorced (both never remarried) for 18.5 years).

    I paid MAX SS portion of FICA for 35 + years and took MAX SS retirement benefits (reduced for age) at 62. I'm 69.5 and she will be 69 in July.

    Hey, if she outlives me, I could care less what the FEDs owe her!!!!

    retired expatriate (11 years in Conde Nast's 2013 "World's Best City" MD: NBME; ABIM; ABNM; ABR; w/spec comp NR

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 5:19 PM, youstink wrote:

    the author of this article writes in a confusing way. SIMPLIFY O.K.?

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 5:22 PM, youstink wrote:

    O.K., O.K., I get it now. I just pushed play, over and over again. I'm alright now. thanks.

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2014, at 1:05 AM, SharonGR wrote:

    I'd really like Motley Fool to discuss the Windfall Elimination Program (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) so all of us (suckers that went to work for a "govt agency") know what lies ahead. Bet you didn't know that working for a bus company might be considered a "govt. agency"! It is as long as it receives Federal, State or Local taxes. And unless you worked for 30 or more years in private industry and paid into SS, you're going to lose 2/3, if not all, of that because you're drawing a "govt. pension"!

    Think about this: You can work 20 years for AT&T and draw a pension; and, work another 20 years for a different public company and draw another pension! No penalty-No "Offset"! Work for the government and you may, in fact, lose your entire "spousal benefits" if your spouse passes before you do!

    Where's the equity in all of this? Please discuss.

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John Maxfield
JohnMaxfield37

John has been writing for The Motley Fool since 2011. As a senior banking analyst, he covers the financial industry and the nation's largest banks in particular. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Lewis and Clark College and a juris doctorate from Southern Methodist University. He's a licensed attorney in the state of Oregon, and resides in Portland with his wife and twin sons. View John Maxfield's profile on LinkedIn

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