What Happens to Social Security Benefits in a California Divorce?

When a couple divorces, one spouse may be entitled to spousal support from the other. Social Security benefits are included in one’s income and therefore can impact the amount of spousal support awarded. 

It’s important to note that under federal law, Social Security benefits are not divided in a divorce, but rather considered as the separate property of the contributing spouse. This differs from other retirement plans, which are considered to be marital property. 

The 10-Year Requirement

If a marriage lasts at least one decade, a spouse of a disabled or retired worker is entitled to related Social Security benefits. This includes the period of time between when a couple is married and when their marital status is terminated. It is not related to the time of separation (or even legal separation), or when either spouse files for divorce. Former spouses may receive 50% of the Social Security beneficiary’s benefits. When a working spouse passes away, a former spouse (or multiple former spouses) will receive 100% of the benefits of that worker. 

The disheartening aspect of this is that if a marriage is officially terminated just shy of 10 years from the date of marriage, the former spouse would not be entitled to any of these Social Security benefits. It is for this reason that many spouses will hold off on filing for divorce until the necessary amount of time has passed to receive these derivative benefits. Unfortunately, this also means that those spouses who are spiteful and wish to cause their spouse hardship will rush to finalize the divorce in order to ensure that these benefits are not provided to their soon-to-be ex. 

What is also alarming is the fact that while multiple former spouses are entitled to collect Social Security benefits of their former spouse (on the same worker’s history), those in homosexual relationships who are domestic partners are not entitled to the same rights. 

The Law Office of Ronald L. Freeman Helps Those in California Who Are Going Through or Thinking of Filing for Divorce 

If you or a loved one is undergoing the process of divorce in California, it can be an extremely emotional time. As a result, you may feel overwhelmed and not know how to proceed. However, it’s important that your rights are protected. That’s why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced San Bernardino and Riverside family law attorney who understands divorce and its surrounding issues and can help to walk you through the whole process. 

At the Law Office of Ronald L. Freeman, our San Bernardino and Riverside family law attorneys will work to collect proper evidence to help to protect your rights. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!