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Social Security - Divorced Spouses Example

Divorced Husband (DH), age 64, and Divorced Wife (DW), age 62, ended their marriage after 25 years. DH is expected to receive $2,400 per month from Social Security once he turns 66 (his FRA). Because DW spent many years raising a family, her Primary Insurance Amount is only $1,000 per month. Neither DH nor DS are remarried.


Q: Can Divorced Wife file for spousal benefits on her ex-spouse (DH) even though he hasn’t begun to receive benefits himself?

Yes. Divorced couples share a benefit that is not available for married couples (unless you filed and suspended before April 29, 2016). Divorced Husband does not need to have filed for his benefits before Divorced Wife can file for spousal benefits on his work record (and vice-versa). For a married couple, one of the spouses has to be receiving benefits in order for the other spouse to receive spousal benefits.


Q: What happens if either the Divorced Wife or Divorced Husband remarry?

There are 3 requirements to qualify for divorced spouse benefits: a) Must be at least 62, b) must have been married to each other for at least 10 years, and c) must be single. Getting remarried would disqualify either of them to receive spousal benefits (there is an exception for spouses who are receiving “auxiliary” benefits only).


 Q:  If Divorced Wife files for spousal benefits on the divorced husbands earnings record, will her own retirement benefits continue to grow? Can she later switch from spousal benefits to retirement benefits if it makes sense?

Not any more. A few years ago it would have been possible. Now if she files for spousal benefits, she will be paid the greater of her own eligible benefit or eligible spousal benefit. She will not be able to switch from spousal benefit (if greater than her own) to her own at a later date. 


Q: Will the receiving of spousal benefits from the divorced spouse have any impact on divorced husband’s retirement benefits?

No. The divorced husband’s benefits will not change based on any strategy that the divorced spouse adopts.

Q: If the marriage between the ex-spouses lasted only 9 years, 11 months, and 3 weeks, would they still be eligible to file spousal benefits on each other’s work record?

Unfortunately, no. The rule is strict – marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.


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