Social Security Changes Impact Divorcees

Effective November 2, 2015, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 changed Social Security rules for claiming spousal benefits.  Prior to these changes, an ex-spouse could file for spousal benefits once their ex-spouse turned 62 years old, regardless of whether their ex-spouse was collecting benefits.  Under the new law, an ex-spouse cannot file for the spousal benefit unless their ex-spouse is actively collecting benefits.

For ex-spouses with existing animosity, this could make things worse.  An ex-spouse could effectively block their ex-spouse from receiving a much needed spousal benefit by not collecting benefits themselves.  This could also create animosity where none existed between ex-spouses.  Early retirement may not be economically feasible for an ex-spouse.  But, without ill intentions, by delaying filing, the ex-spouse leaves their ex-spouse without the ability to collect the spousal benefit.

For couples contemplating divorce, this could add a new topic for negotiating.  The parties could agree to a time that each party must begin collecting social security benefits.  These terms should be specified in a settlement agreement.

For more information, contact Family Law attorney, Miles J. Murphy III, at (616) 458-3994 or email

Categories: Family Law

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