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Social Security - Divorced Spouses

The rules for collecting Social Security benefits for divorced spouses are not much different than the rules that apply to married couples. To be eligible to collect spousal benefits on your ex-spouse, your marriage must have lasted ten years, both spouses must be at least 62 years old, and the person claiming the benefits must be unmarried.

 Another unique rule for divorced couples is that a divorced spouse can claim benefits on a former spouse’s earnings record even if that former spouse has not yet claimed retirement benefits – not possible for married couples. However, to take advantage of this special rule, the couple must be divorced at least two years. More than one ex-spouse can each claim spousal benefits on the same former spouse’s earnings record.

 Anyone who claims Social Security benefits before full retirement age must collect the largest benefit to which they are entitled (whether based on their work record or their ex-spouse’s record) – they can’t choose which benefit to receive. 

The maximum spousal benefit for an ex-spouse, once they reach full retirement ageis 50% of the former spouse’s full retirement age amount. The client can collect spousal benefits on a former spouse as early as 62, but those benefits will be worth just 35% of the ex-spouse’s benefit because they were collected four years early.  If you collect benefits before your full retirement age and you continue, or go back to work, you may be subject to an earnings cap penalty. Once you reach 66, the earnings cap disappears. Also, if you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you are eligible to file a restricted claim for spousal benefits only and collect half of your ex’s full-retirement-age benefit while allowing your own retirement benefit to accrue delayed-retirement credits worth 8% per year up until age 70. 

A divorced spouse is also eligible to receive survivor benefits on their former spouses as early as age 60, provided certain conditions are met. Also, a surviving spouse will not lose their survivor benefits if he or she remarries, provided they wait until age 60 to remarry.

At Carr Wealth Management, LLC, we specialize in identifying the optimal claiming strategy tailored to each client’s needs. Please contact us to schedule a no-charge consultation or if you simply have a question about Social Security Benefits or other financially related planning areas.


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