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Social Security payments and an ex-spouse's earnings

Illinois residents who get a divorce might be able to get Social Security payments based on the earnings history of an ex-spouse once they reach the age of 62. The divorce must happen after at least 10 years of marriage, and there must have been some income disparity between the two. The payments cannot begin until at least two years after the divorce.

Social Security payments are calculated by taking the monthly average of the highest-paying 35 years of a person's working life. This is called the Primary Insurance Amount, and it is the amount a person will receive at full retirement at the age of 67. Subtracting this amount from half of the ex-spouse's PIA gives the amount that the person will receive from that spouse. If the result is negative, the person will not receive a spousal payment. If the person is eligible for the spousal payment, the full amount will be paid at 67, but there could be more in some cases if the person waits until the age of 70.

A person must remain single to continue drawing on an ex-spouse's work record. However, if the person remarries but annulment, death or divorce end the marriage, it might be possible to get the payments. A person's benefits are not affected by an ex-spouse drawing on them.

Retirement may be a concern for some people who are getting a divorce if they have been the lower earner in the marriage. However, they might have access to other assets besides just Social Security payments. For example, they might get a portion of the other party's retirement account. If the couple owned a home, one might get the home or they might sell it and split the proceeds. This is often worked out in property division negotiations with the help of the parties' respective family law attorneys.

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