Social Securities Strategies: Former Spouses

Last Updated Jun 6, 2011 10:43 AM EDT

A while back, I discussed two strategies -- called File and Suspend and Double Dipping -- that married couples can consider when claiming Social Security benefits. These posts generated several inquiries from divorced individuals who wanted to know about their ability to file for spousal benefits. I asked Tiya Lim, my colleague at Buckingham Asset Management, for some help responding.

To claim a spousal benefit under your former spouse's record, your former spouse must first be eligible for a worker benefit or disability benefit through Social Security. In addition, you must fulfill the following requirements:
  • You must have been married to your former spouse for more than 10 years
  • You must be at least 62 years old
  • You can't be married
  • You can't be entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record
Unlike with married couples, you don't have to wait for your former spouse to file for his or her own benefits before claiming the spousal benefit.

If you meet all the above requirements, then you can file for a spousal benefit under your former spouse's record. You don't need to contact your former spouse to notify him or her of your filing, nor do you need your former spouse's Social Security statements to determine your spousal benefit. You can find out your estimated spousal benefit amount by contacting a Social Security Administration representative at 1-800-772-1213 or visiting a Social Security office.

By claiming benefits under your former spouse's record, you will not affect his or her own benefits. Also, if your former spouse remarries, your benefit claims won't affect the new spouse's benefits or any other family member who might receive benefits on the same record.

Finally, for those whose former spouse has died, you can still file for spousal benefits if the following applies:
  • You were married to former spouse for at least 10 years
  • You are at least 60 years old, or 50 years old and disabled
  • You aren't entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record
If you remarried after age 60 (or after age 50 and were entitled to disability benefits at the time of marriage), you can't claim spousal benefits under your former spouse's record. However, if you're already entitled to benefits as an aged or disabled surviving spouse and then remarry, your benefits will continue regardless of your age at the time of remarriage.

As always, speak to a SSA representative to confirm benefit eligibility.

For further reading on Social Security, see the following posts:
  • Larry Swedroe On Twitter»

    Larry Swedroe is director of research for The BAM Alliance. He has authored or co-authored 13 books, including his most recent, Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett. His opinions and comments expressed on this site are his own and may not accurately reflect those of the firm.

Comments

Market Data

Market News

Stock Watchlist