Social Security Retirement Planning If You Are Divorced

By: Ami S. Longstreet

If you are divorced, you are entitled to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) if:

1. Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits. If your ex-spouse worked for ten years or more, then he or she is eligible to receive retirement benefits as early as age 62. Also, if your ex-spouse is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you may qualify for benefits; and

2. You are age 62 or older; and

3. You are not married; and

4. Your marriage lasted at least ten years; and

5. Your own Social Security retirement benefits are lower than your ex-spouse’s. Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age.

Interestingly, if you are eligible for benefits on your own work record and you have reached your full retirement age, you can choose to either claim your own benefit or delay taking your Social Security benefits and claim half of your ex-spouse’s benefit, regardless of whether this benefit amount is greater or less than your retirement benefit.

This will allow you to continue to earn delayed retirement credits and at the same time, collect Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s work record. At age 70, when you have earned the maximum benefit based on your record, assuming it is higher than the benefit you are receiving on your ex-spouse’s work record, you can switch to your own benefit.

For example, let’s say John is 67 years old and has been divorced for over two years. He is eligible for $1,200 in Social Security benefits based on his work record. He is also eligible to get $800 a month from his ex-wife’s benefits, which is half of her $1,600 monthly benefit. John can either take his benefit of $1,200 a month in Social Security for the rest of his life, or he can take half of his ex-wife’s benefit of $800 per month until he reaches age 70 at which time his monthly benefit will increase from $1,200 to $1,500 or more.

As stated above, in order for John to take advantage of his ex-spouse’s Social Security, he must have been married to his ex-wife for at least ten years and not be married. John’s claim for his ex-wife’s benefit does not impact the social security benefits of his ex-wife, even if more than one former spouse claims against her benefits.

SEE BLOG DATED NOVEMBER 17, 2015 by Ami Longstreet describing the significant changes to the Social Security Law effective November 2, 2015.


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