Marriage can affect how you do your taxes, make money and plan for retirement. If your marriage ends, it’s important to know the rules for divorce and Social Security. Who is eligible for the benefits, how much can you collect and what if there is another marriage? All of these must be considered after divorce as you look toward retirement to determine what Social Security benefits you are eligible for. Social Security is only one part of retirement planning, and you may want to consider working with a financial advisor to create a complete financial plan.
Who Qualifies for Social Security Divorce Spousal Benefits?
An important thing to know about divorce and Social Security is that divorce does not end the ex-spouse’s eligibility for Social Security. If you spent a long time with someone, you may still receive Social Security benefits on their work record if certain criteria are met.
Here are the government’s requirements for filing for Social Security on your ex-spouse’s work record:
You are at least 62 years old and not currently married.
You are divorced from someone who is entitled to Social Security benefits.
You were married to that person for at least 10 years before the divorce was finalized.
You are not entitled to higher retirement or disability benefits.
If you meet these requirements, you can file a claim without your ex-spouse knowing about it. All you need is proof of marriage. It won’t affect their payout and they don’t even need to be collecting their benefits at the moment.
If you file for benefits at full retirement age, you will receive half of your ex-spouse’s retirement or disability benefit. If you decide to file earlier, your benefit will be reduced.
Additionally, if you reach full retirement age and were born before January 2, 1954, you can choose to receive your ex-spouse’s benefits, delaying yours. This means a higher monthly payment when you apply it to your own work record.
What if You Have Your Own Work Record?
You cannot collect two work records at the same time. If you are eligible for Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse, and from your own work record, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay whichever is higher. You’ll usually get your own benefits and then if your ex-spouse’s benefits net you more you’ll get an extra amount to make up the difference.
What if there is more than one marriage?
If you have been married and divorced more than once, you can choose which work record to collect. Remember, all marriages will have to meet the requirements listed above. Also, you cannot collect multiple ex-spouse work records so you will have to choose which one you think can earn more.
What if there are Multiple Ex-Spouses?
What are the divorce and Social Security rules when multiple ex-spouses want to file on the same person’s work record? For example, say your ex-husband has another Social Security-eligible ex-spouse on his work record. Will you compete for the sake of it? Fortunately, that’s not how it works. The Social Welfare benefit will be granted to both ex-spouses who qualify.
What If Your Ex-Spouse Still Isn’t Collecting?
Regardless of whether your ex-spouse has started collecting Social Security benefits, you can still qualify for benefits on their earnings record. You must have been divorced for at least two years, but if you meet the other requirements to get your own benefits, it doesn’t matter if your ex-spouse has applied or is collecting or not.
Can You Collect Social Security If You’re Still Working?
Just because you’re at retirement age doesn’t mean you’re ready or able to quit work. After all, having a good retirement income is important. So, can you collect from your ex-spouse’s work record while you are still working? You can. If you haven’t reached full retirement age yet, there is a limit to how much you can make before it affects your Social Security payment.
For 2022, that limit is $19,560. For every $2 over the limit, $1 will be deducted from your Social Security benefits. The year you reach full retirement age, the limit changes to $51,960, and $1 is deducted for every $3 you exceed the limit. Once you reach full retirement age, there is no limit to the amount of money you can make. You will receive your full benefits.
How to Apply for Ex-Spousal Benefit?
Now that you’ve learned the rules about divorce and Social Security, how do you apply to get Social Security from your ex-spouse’s work record? It is very simple. First, you’ll need to decide if now is the best age to apply for Social Security. Keep in mind that when you apply for benefits, the assumption from the SSA is that you will be applying based on your own earnings record and that you will receive the highest benefits between you and your ex-spouse.
Before you apply make sure you gather the right documents. To apply for an ex-spouse record you will want to have that person’s Social Security number or their date and place of birth and their parents’ names. Once you get the necessary documents together, applying for Social Security is simple. Visit SSA.gov, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security Administration office to apply.
The Bottom Line
Divorce has both personal and legal consequences. For example, there are certain Social Security rules after divorce. When you are divorced, you may be entitled to benefits from your ex-spouse, including Social Security benefits. If you were married for more than 10 years, you could receive up to half of your full retirement or disability amount. If you are eligible for benefits from your own work record, or from another spouse, you will be given whichever is higher.
Filing for Social Security on your ex-spouse’s work record will not affect her benefits. They don’t even need to know about it. If they have another eligible ex-spouse filing on their work record, that won’t affect you either. As you approach retirement age, all you have to do is decide when to file, get the documents together and apply for your Social Security benefits.
Tips for Investing
Divorce is one of the many complications that can arise when planning for retirement. Working with a financial advisor can be critical to figuring out where your retirement income will come from in order to live the life you want. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset Free Tool you are matched with up to three financial advisors serving your area, and you can interview your advisor at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you are ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goalsstart now.
When planning for retirement, it is important to know how much money you need to save. Use our retirement calculator to find out how much you’ll need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement.
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