Future Social Security couldn’t be divided in divorce

A divorcing spouse’s future Social Security benefits can’t be divided at divorce, says the Illinois Supreme Court.

In this case, the husband was participating in a government pension plan in lieu of Social Security, and a judge divided up his future pension payments so that his wife would get a share. The husband responded by arguing that if the judge could split his future pension benefits, the judge should also split the wife’s future Social Security benefits.

But the Supreme Court said that pensions and Social Security are different. The husband had a legal right to his vested pension benefits, and a judge could determine their exact value. By contrast, no one has a legal right to future Social Security benefits, because Congress can change the law at any time, reducing the benefits’ value or abolishing them altogether.

As a result, the court said, any attempt to value the wife’s future Social Security benefits would be “hypothetical.”

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