What happens to Social Security after a divorce?

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Q. I’m recently divorced after 25 years of marriage. I’m not sure how Social Security will work now. My ex’s Social Security is higher because I stayed home to raise our family. I have now been working full time for the last 12 years and do not plan on retiring anytime soon.
— Flying solo

A. Here’s how it works.

Social Security is based on the highest 35 years of earnings.

Every year that you continue to work will add your earnings in as long as they exceed $1,470 per quarter, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

“Since you were married more than 10 years, you are entitled to the greater of ½ of your ex-spouse’s benefit or your full benefit,” she said. “He does not need to have applied for you to collect on his benefit, and it does not diminish his benefit.”

You will receive your personal benefit first, she said. If your ex’s benefit is higher, you will get an additional amount added to your benefit.

“You need to be at least age 62 and divorced for 2 years to be eligible,” D’Agostini said. “If you remarry, you will forfeit your ex-spouse’s benefit, but would revert to your benefit. However, if your ex-spouse predeceases you, you can claim a survivor benefit on him.”

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This story was originally published on July 5, 2021.

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