Skip to main content
(770) 993-5317 Contact Us
a hand signing a document with blue pen

Divorce and Social Security Benefits


Going through a divorce may require you to re-evaluate many of the plans you had while you were married, particularly when it comes to financial matters. It is likely that the things you counted on for your future financial security are going to be affected by the divorce settlement. One issue that people may overlook when going through divorce is how Social Security benefits may be affected. Often, people do not take a look at this issue until they get near retirement age. However, divorce can affect Social Security benefits long before retirement age. If you are pursuing a divorce in Atlanta or the surrounding area, contact the family law lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter. We can help you understand how dissolving a marriage may affect your financial future.


In order to qualify for Social Security benefits when you retire (or otherwise qualify for benefits, such as through a disability), you must accrue “credits” during your lifetime. By law, you may receive up to four credits per year, with one credit for each $1,220 that you earn in a calendar year. Once you earn a total of 40 credits, you are entitled to receive Social Security benefits, providing you meet the conditions for eligibility.

Typically, an individual who works for a living will pay into Social Security during his or her working life and can expect to receive Social Security retirement benefits based upon what he or she has paid into the system. Then, depending upon the age at which the individual opts to receive benefits, he or she may begin collecting Social Security.

However, it is also true that you can potentially qualify for benefits through your spouse’s earnings, even if you have not earned sufficient credits, or your earnings are much lower than your spouse’s. Consequently, for many people, it is important to find out what will happen to those Social Security benefits upon divorce.

As long as your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you may still qualify for Social Security benefits based upon your ex-spouse’s earnings if, at the time you apply:

  • You are at least 62 years old;
  • You are unmarried;
  • Your ex-spouse is able to collect Social Security benefits; and
  • The amount you are entitled to receive based upon your own earnings history is less than what you would receive under your spouse’s benefit.

The amount you are entitled to receive through your ex-spouse is up to one-half of your ex-spouse’s benefit, even if your ex-spouse has remarried. If you and your spouse are younger than the full retirement age, the benefit may be less. Furthermore, you may be entitled to this benefit even if you subsequently remarried but are currently unmarried, either through divorce, annulment, or widowhood. If your spouse is eligible for but has not applied for retirement benefits, you may still collect benefits based upon your spouse’s earnings as long as you have been divorced for at least two years.

These special provisions for Social Security can be a real boon to spouses who had low or no earnings during their married life because they relied upon a spouse’s income for current and future living expenses. It is also reassuring for higher-earning spouses to know that even if an ex-spouse opts to collect benefits based upon their earnings, their own Social Security benefits as well as any current spouse’s benefits will not be reduced as a result.


Divorce involves making many decisions and agreements about your financial future, such as dividing marital assets and calculating spousal support. In your planning, you should not neglect taking a serious look at retirement issues, including Social Security—even if your retirement may be years away.

The Social Security system contains many technicalities and conditions that can be difficult to understand and that can greatly affect how much you receive and when. The divorce attorneys at Rowsey & Stelter are skilled in guiding Atlanta residents through these complicated matters. Call us at (770) 993-5317, or use our online form to set up a consultation. We also represent individuals in Georgia communities such as Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Johns Creek, Milton, and Roswell.

Our Client Reviews

Rowsey & Stelter, Attorneys at Law

4.4 / 5.0

Based on 7 reviews

Chris Smith

Tom did an excellent job setting up my LLC for my new business recently. I was in a situation where I needed the LLC formed quickly and Tom and his team were able to work on a very short deadline. Highly recommended!

GAAW Wright

Tom has been our attorney for many years. He has been with us through thick and thin. He has successfully handled all our queries and cases with patience and understanding. We highly recommend Tom!

Corey Rennolds

At all times for the duration of my case, Tom demonstrated professionalism, confidence, and honesty. At no point was I pressured to make any one decision over another, but Tom did his best to inform me about the consequences and benefits of all of my options. If he did not know some specific detail regarding my case, he made the effort to find out. Tom instantly exudes trustworthiness and was always in steady contact. I would recommend his services to anyone.

Justina Allen

I met Tom over 10 years ago after settling in Roswell with my family. I have learned over the years that Tom is a man of high integrity, genuine and extremely knowledgeable in his field. Along with being honest, he is a straight shooter and will let you know where you stand. He will provide you with personal attention you don’t get at bigger firms and will go the extra mile. As legal matters can be frightening to deal with, Tom will guide you through the process and get you the results you need.

Rowsey & Stelter, Attorneys at Law

Contact Us Today!

295 W Crossville Road,
Building 100, Suite 110,
Roswell, GA 30075

(770) 993-5317

Monday - Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday Closed