Social Security Benefits You Are Entitled To
K nowing whether you are entitled to a share of your ex’s social security benefit at retirement is too often an afterthought following a divorce. Make sure you know the rules of the road before you file.
A divorced spouse can collect a Social Security retirement benefit based on the work record of an ex-husband (or ex-wife), and it will not affect the latter’s retirement benefit – or the benefit of that person’s current spouse, if he or she has remarried. In fact, the Social Security Administration will not even notify a person if an ex-spouse collects a retirement benefit based on that person’s earnings record.
Overall, a divorced spouse who has never worked is permitted to claim Social Security based on the record of a working ex-spouse. For the divorced spouse to collect on that employment history, the worker must be at least 62 years old and collecting, or be eligible for, Social Security retirement benefits.
The 10 year rules applies. A couple must have been married for at least 10 years before the divorce became final (marriage date to final divorce decree date) for the divorced spouse to collect Social Security based on the other spouse’s work record. This of course presumes that your social security benefits, from your personal work history, do not exceed that which you might be entitled to as an ex-spouse.
Specifically, it does not matter whether we are talking about an ex-husband or ex-wife. What matters is that the divorced spouse has not remarried and that he or she earned a smaller paycheck, if any at all. That said, if a divorced spouse is entitled to claim benefits on his or her earnings, and those benefits result in a higher payout, that divorced spouse’s interest in their ex’s benefits would be moot.
The size of the divorced spouse’s benefit will depend on the age at which he or she first files for Social Security, as well as the size of the worker’s benefit at his or her full retirement age. To get the largest monthly check possible, the divorced spouse should wait until his or her own full-retirement age to start collecting.
The divorced spouse also is eligible for widow’s benefits after the worker dies. (the Social Security Administration calls those divorced survivor benefits). Your current spouse also can claim Social Security based on your work history, along with widow’s benefits.
Should a situation arise where the divorced spouse would be collecting survivor benefits, he or she could qualify as early as age 60. Someone who qualifies as disabled can put a claim in against benefits at age 50.
Social Security is gender-neutral.
You can get more information about the benefits you may be entitled to by calling the
disinterested helpful folks in the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213. As you might have guessed, there is a government pamphlet, but it’s gender-specific : What Every Woman Should Know.
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