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Social Security and Divorce

Social Security allows divorcees to claim on their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits if certain conditions are met.  This can be of advantage if your former spouse’s benefit is significantly larger, more than twice your own benefit level.

Our learning objectives for this post are:

1.    To learn how you may collect a spousal benefit if you become divorced

2.    To understand how the timing of starting the divorced spouse benefit can impact the amount you receive

3.    How remarrying affects your divorced spousal benefit

Additional resources are available at the Social Security Administration website at:  www.SSA.gov  

To claim on your ex-spouse’s work history, you must be at least 62 years old, have been married for at least 10 years before the divorce and not remarried.  If you have been divorced for at least two years, then you can collect your spousal benefit even if your ex-spouse has not filed for their own benefit.  Otherwise, you will need to wait until your former spouse files to collect his or her benefit, meaning that you would both be at least age 62.

Your benefit will be half of your ex-spouses full retirement amount if you claim when you are at full retirement age, which is age 66 – 67 depending on when you were born.  Claiming early results in a reduction in benefits and there are no delayed filing credits for waiting past your full retirement age.  Maximizing your benefit by waiting until you have reached full retirement age may be important depending on other factors in your financial situation.

Remarrying voids your ability to collect on your previous spouses record, but you can still collect on your own record or that of your new spouse when all the requirements for filing have been met. Additionally, if your second marriage ends in divorce and your first marriage lasted at least 10 years, you can go back and collect on your first spouse’s earnings record if that benefit is larger than the one from your second marriage.

The most common time we see the divorced spouse benefit come into play is when one spouse had limited work history and a correspondingly low personal benefit level.  This is often due to leaving the work force to raise children or to care for aging parents, but could be a situation where one spouse earned a lot more in wages than the other due to career choice.

Integra Capital Advisors provides advice to our clients on their Social Security benefits as part of their retirement income plan.  Call us today at 941-778-1900 or visit www.integracapitaladvisors.com to download our Social Security Guide and schedule a complimentary call today.

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