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Social Security benefits in same-sex divorce

The Supreme Court decision in 2015 that allowed same-sex couples across the nation to marry also has implications for same-sex couples in California who are getting divorced. As Investment News reports, for couples who were married before the recognition of same-sex unions across the country, things can become very complicated.

This appears to be the case especially when it comes to Social Security benefits. Same-sex couples were not allowed to claim these benefits until the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 giving all couples the right to marry in any state, and for states to recognize all marriages performed in other states. This also allows couples in all states to divorce, regardless of the sex of the spouses.

In order to be eligible for an ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits there are several factors to make the claim valid. First, the marriage has to have lasted at least ten years. Next, the person claiming a spousal benefit on the work history of another (the ex-spouse) cannot be remarried. Finally, both ex-spouses need to be at least 62 years-old before a claim can be made.

The problem is that to claim Social Security benefits, a marriage has to last a certain amount of time for that claim to be valid, and same-sex couples are given various timelines, depending upon the state. In California, inheritance rights for same-sex couples in domestic partnerships began on January 1, 2000. The Social Security Administration takes civil unions and domestic partnerships into consideration when determining how much Social Security a person is eligible for. This means that all same-sex marriages are not judged by the beginning of federal recognition.

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