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Social Security – Questions and Answers Regarding Divorced Spouse Benefits

Posted December 8th, 2015 | by The Red Headed Lawyer

Original article provided courtesy of Bill Stewart of Stewart & Hurst:

Stewart & Hurst
7887 San Felipe
Suite 122
Houston, Texas 77063
Phone: 713.974.2928

social-security-divorced-spouse-benefits

Question 1:
How do I know if I qualify to receive benefits on my former spouse’s Social Security record?

Answer:
You may receive benefits on your former spouse’s Social Security record (even if he/she has remarried) if you:

  • were married to your former spouse for 10 years or longer;
  • are age 62 or older;
  • are unmarried;
  • the benefit that you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit your former spouse would receive based on his/her work; and
  • your former spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Question 2:
How do I know if my former spouse qualifies to receive benefits on my Social Security record?

Answer:
Your former spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  • you were married to your former spouse for 10 years or longer;
  • your former spouse is age 62 or older;
  • your former spouse is unmarried;
  • the benefit that your former spouse is entitled to receive based on his/her own work is less than the benefit he/she would receive based on your work; and
  • you are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Question 3:
Am I entitled to receive benefits on my former spouse’s Social Security record even he/she has not filed to receive his/her benefits?

Answer:
Yes. If your former spouse is eligible for Social Security Benefits but has not filed to receive benefits you may still receive your benefits on your former spouse’s record if you meet the eligibility requirements from Answer 1 and have been divorced from your former spouse for at least two years.


Question 4:
What share or my former spouse’s retirement benefits may I receive?

Answer:
If you are 62 years old and the former spouse is eligible for benefits, although not necessarily receiving them, the maximum benefit you would receive is 50% of the benefit your former spouse would receive at full retirement age. Benefits paid to you before full retirement age of your former spouse are reduced based upon the age of your former spouse at the time benefits are paid to you.


Question 5:
If my former spouse remarries after being married to me for 10 years, which spouse receives benefits?

Answer:
Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit rates for other beneficiaries.


Question 6:
If I remarry can I still collect benefits from my former spouse?

Answer:
No, unless your later marriage ends by death, divorce or annulment.


Question 7:
If I remarry can my former spouse still collect benefits from me?

Answer:
Yes, if the former spouse meets the criteria from Answer 1.


Question 8:
If my former spouse remarries can he or she collect benefits on my record?

Answer:
Generally the answer is no. If your former spouse’s later marriage ends, whether by death, divorce or annulment, he/she may be able to collect benefits on your record.


Question 9:
What if I am eligible for retirement benefits on my own?

Answer:
The Social Security Administration will pay the benefit to you first. If:

  • The benefit of your former spouse’s record is higher than yours, you will get a combination of benefits that equals the higher benefit amount (reduced for age);
  • you have reached the full retirement age[i] and you are eligible for a spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you have a choice.

Question 10:
What if my former spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on his/her own?

Answer:
The Social Security Administration will pay the benefit to your former spouse first. If:

  • The benefit on your record is higher than your former spouse’s, he/she will get a combination of benefits that equals the higher benefit amount (reduced for age);
  • your former spouse has reached the full retirement age and is eligible for a spouse’s benefit and his/her own retirement benefit, he/she has a choice.

Question 11:
Can I delay my own retirement benefits and opt to only receive the benefits on the record of my former spouse?

Answer:
Yes, if you delay your own benefits a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of the delayed retirement credits.[ii]


Question 12:
Can my former spouse delay his/her own retirement benefits and opt to only receive the benefits on my record?

Answer:
Yes, if your former spouse delays his/her own benefits a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of the delayed retirement credits.


Question 13:
Does the amount of benefits I receive effect the amount of benefits my former spouse receives?

Answer:
No, the amount of benefits you receive effects neither the benefits your former spouse may receive nor the benefits your former spouse’s current spouse may receive.


Question 14:
Am I eligible for benefits if my former spouse is deceased?

Answer:
There are a few exceptions for surviving divorced spouses:

  • If you remarry after age 60, and your former spouse is deceased, you may still be eligible for a benefit under your former spouse’s record;
  • If your former spouse is deceased, you may apply for benefits based on your former spouse’s record at age 60;
  • You would not have to meet the 10 year length-of-marriage rule if you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled who is getting benefits on the record of your former spouse. The child must be your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.

Question 15:
When am I entitled to Divorced Spouse’s Insurance Benefits?

Answer:
You are entitled to a divorced spouse’s insurance benefits on the worker’s Social Security record if:

  • the worker is entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits;
  • you have filed an application for divorced spouse’s benefits;
  • you are not entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits based on a primary insurance amount which equals or exceeds one-half the worker’s primary insurance amount;
  • you are age 62 or over;
  • you are not married; and
  • you were married to the worker for at least 10 years before the date the divorce became final.

 

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[i] If the divorced spouse was born in 1937 or earlier, full retirement age is 65. If the divorced spouse was born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. If the divorced spouse was born between 1938 and 1959, the full retirement age will be somewhere between 65 and 67.

[ii] Social Security benefits are increased by a certain percentage (depending on date of birth) if the divorced spouse delays his/her retirement beyond full retirement age. The benefit increase no longer applies when the divorced spouse reaches age 70, even if the divorced spouse continues to delay taking benefits.

 

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