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Are Social Security Benefits Considered a Marital Asset?

by | Jun 2, 2022 | Uncategorized |

When you are planning for a Michigan divorce, it can be difficult to understand with certainty what types of assets and debts are likely to be classified as marital property, and which are likely to be classified as separate property. As you may know, under Michigan law, Michigan is an equitable distribution state. What this means is that all property is classified as separate property or marital property prior to the divorce. Only marital property is divided in the divorce, while separate property is retained by the spouses individually. Where do Social Security benefits fall, especially since these benefits are based on an individual’s earnings over a lifetime (including during the marriage)? In short, Social Security benefits are not considered a marital asset, but an ex-spouse may be able to receive benefits. Our Michigan divorce lawyers can explain how this works.

Social Security Retirement Benefits are an Entitlement

The first thing to understand is that Social Security benefits in retirement are considered an entitlement, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) explains. Accordingly, the benefit to which you are entitled once you retire is not considered to be an asset for purposes of your divorce case, regardless of whether some or a majority of your earnings that will determine your Social Security benefit occurred during the marriage. The court will not award a portion of the Social Security benefits you are entitled to receive after retirement to your spouse, and likewise, you should not expect to be awarded a portion of your spouse’s Social Security benefits in your divorce.

You should know that retirement benefits held in a 401(k) account, 403(b) account, or similar retirement account are different from Social Security benefits. To be clear, those types of retirement benefits can be divisible as marital assets in a divorce. It is also important to know that, even though Social Security benefits are not considered to be divisible marital assets, a spouse may be able to receive an ex’s Social Security benefits. 

How an Ex-Spouse Can Receive Social Security Benefits

Whether you are wondering if your ex-spouse will be entitled to your benefits, or you are wondering if you will be entitled to your ex’s Social Security retirement benefits, our Michigan divorce lawyers can clarify. After a divorce, an ex-spouse can receive Social Security retirement benefits based on his or her ex’s record if the following requirements are met:

  • Marriage lasted at least 10 years;
  • Ex-spouse seeking benefits is not currently married;
  • Ex-spouse seeking benefits is at least 62 years old; and
  • Ex-spouse seeking benefits would receive a lower payment based on his or her own record. 

The spouse whose record allows for Social Security retirement benefits will not see his or her benefits amount impacted by an ex-spouse’s eligibility. To be clear, the benefits your ex-spouse receives will not have an effect on the amount of benefits you receive.

Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney

Do you have questions about Social Security benefits and your divorce, or do you need more information about how Michigan courts handle the process of classifying marital and separate assets? One of our experienced Michigan divorce lawyers can help you. The court will also consider Social Security Benefits as income for purposes of Spousal Support. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins today for more information.