From time to time we get some questions about divorced-spouse benefits and whether or not an ex can keep his former spouse from getting benefits, usually by signing something in the divorce papers. The short answer is that a former spouse can always receive divorced-spouse benefits if she qualifies. However, there are a few other issues that dirty the waters. Here, PBS News Hour takes on the question.
Question: My ex and I were married for 25 years. In our divorce papers, he stated that I have no rights to his retirement benefits. Is that something I can get around? Or, because it’s stated in divorce papers, does that mean that I cannot benefit?
Answer: There are at least three related but also distinct issues here. The first is whether a divorce settlement can deny future financial benefits to a spouse who would be entitled to them if still married. This is a common condition in such settlement agreements but both parties must sign such agreements, meaning that your former husband cannot unilaterally state what you will and will not be entitled to after your marriage has been legally dissolved.
The second issue here is whether a divorce settlement can cover who gets future Social Security payments. It can. In most cases, the lower-earning spouse would be interested in getting access to some or all of the higher-earning spouse’s future Social Security payments. This future flow of income represents an asset that can be apportioned like a house or other assets in a divorce settlement.
Lastly, there’s the matter of whether you can file for an ex-spousal Social Security benefit based on your former husband’s earnings record. Such benefits have no impact on his own Social Security entitlements. I thus have a hard time accepting the notion that such benefits somehow would be part of his retirement benefits.
Find the full article here.