Gray Divorce: Can You Collect Social Security Benefits From Your Ex in North Carolina?

gray divorce Social Security

When you’re going through a gray divorce (a divorce for those over the age of 50), the considerations are often different.  Since things like child custody and child support payments may be less of a concern for gray divorces, and it may seem simpler to separate amicably. We encounter many people who wait until their children are out of the house before initiating a divorce specifically to make things easier. One of the most asked questions we get in gray divorce is not about children, but about Social

 Security benefits. Those who are separating at the later stages of life have often accumulated more assets together, and there are additional considerations when it comes to the future and retirement. In particular, spousal Social Security benefits may be available to you even after divorce. 

In North Carolina, how is this issue handled? First, it’s important to understand gray divorce itself. Here is what you need to know.

What Is a Gray Divorce and How Is It Unique? 

The divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has seen a sharp increase in recent years even as the divorce rate for younger people has dropped. These shifting demographics have meant that some of the established advice and knowledge about divorce just isn’t as applicable anymore. 

In 2004, AARP coined the phrase “gray divorce” to give a name to this new phenomenon. Psychology Today calls gray divorce an “undeniable worldwide reality that is transforming the social and economic lives of divorcing couples.” 

The reasons for the shifts in the divorce demographics are multi-faceted and hard to pin down, but experts think the following are all contributing factors: 

  • Social Acceptance of Divorce: There was a time when a divorce would take a serious toll on an individual’s social and professional life. The stigma around divorce has faded, so older couples who previously felt pressure to remain together are feeling less constrained. 
  • Increasing Life Expectancies: To put it simply, people are living longer, and “’til death do us part” is just looking a little too daunting these days. When older adults realize how much of their life they still have in front of them, they may feel more inclined to move on from a relationship that is no longer working. 
  • Empty Nest Syndrome: Many older married couples find that once their children have grown and left the house, they have fewer ties keeping them together. Marital problems that were once hidden beneath the work of parenting are much more apparent. 

The impact of the rise in gray divorce is that new concerns for equitable divorce terms are coming into the equation. Retirement benefits are often a bigger concern than custody arrangements, and divorcing couples may find themselves needing to navigate sticky terms around beneficiaries and estate planning. 

One particular area of concern for gray divorces is the matter of Social Security benefits. 

What Happens to Social Security Benefits During a Divorce in North Carolina? 

Social Security is a major source of income for many retired individuals. Eligibility for Social Security benefits begins when the recipient is 62, though getting full retirement benefits through Social Security happens between ages 66 to 67, depending on your birth year

There are spousal benefits for Social Security as well. An eligible spouse is one who is either between age 62 and full retirement age or who is caring for a dependent child. 

These spousal Social Security benefits are in addition to the recipient’s benefits and do not reduce the amount the recipient receives. 

What many people going through a gray divorce may not realize is that these benefits also apply to an ex-spouse under certain conditions. An ex-spouse is eligible to receive spousal Social Security if they were married to the recipient for at least ten years and they have not yet remarried. 

How Do I Make Spousal Social Security Benefits Work for Me During a Gray Divorce?

Understanding the details of Social Security can be tricky in the best of circumstances, and figuring out how they apply to you during a gray divorce can be even more complicated. Because of the nature of this benefit, some couples who would like to divorce remain married until the 10-year mark is met in order to secure the best financial stability for everyone involved.

Another complication is that not all of those who are eligible know to take advantage of the benefit. You need to educate yourself and consider all of your options and bring it to the attention of the Social Security Administration if you are eligible for benefits you are not currently receiving.

A North Carolina Gray Divorce Lawyer Can Help

Going through a divorce is never easy, but knowing what options are available and how different choices will impact you helps you make decisions more clearly. Speaking with a qualified and experienced North Carolina divorce attorney as you navigate the choices in a gray divorce can help you make sure that you’re setting your future up in a way that will keep you secure. Schedule a consultation today.