As some readers may know, our Social Security system permits a divorced person (once eligible for benefits in the normal course of events) to receive the greater of (a) the amount he/she would be entitled to in their own name or (b) 50% of their ex-spouse’ benefit provided that the parties had been married for at least ten years and the person has not remarried.
Although New Jersey law generally holds that the marital partnership terminates upon a filing for divorce, the parties remain legally married until the subsequent entry of a Judgment of Divorce.
For Social Security purposes, the latter rule also applies. For example, if a person has been married for 9 ½ years when a divorce complaint is filed, the actual divorce date will govern whether he/she is permitted to exercise option (b) above. Under this model it behooves the person to delay the entry of a Judgment of Divorce for six months so that they qualify for this benefit. If a spouse qualifies and selects the 50% option, it does not change the other party’s benefit payments—the ex-spouse will still be entitled to 100% of the expected payout.
If you are considering marriage dissolution, you should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who knows the rules governing support and sustainability after divorce.