Your Social Security Advisor

Remarried Ex-Spouse – Ask Rusty

spouse money benefitsDear Rusty:  I was married to my husband for 6 years when we divorced in May of 1996.  Over the next year or so we felt we had resolved our differences and decided to re-marry in July of 1997.  Although we both tried hard, we simply couldn’t make it work and so we divorced again for good in September 2000.   I’ve never re-married, but I’m now nearly 62 years of age and wondering:  since my ex-husband always made much more money than me, can I collect Social Security as his divorced spouse or do I need to take Social Security based upon my own work record?  Signed:    Wondering

Dear Wondering:    Social Security’s rules state that a divorcee who wants to collect retirement benefits from their ex-spouse’s work record must have been married to that person for at least 10 years, must be divorced for at least 2 years (unless your ex-spouse is already collecting benefits), must not now be married, and both the divorcee and their ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old. Your ex-spouse need not already be actually receiving benefits, but he must at least be eligible to receive either Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Your situation is somewhat unique because you meet most of the criteria, but the total length of time you were actually married to your ex-spouse in your two marriages is only 9 years – 6 the first time and 3 the second time – leaving you apparently short of the 10-years-married rule.   But here’s some good news:  Social Security’s rules for divorced spouses also say that if you and your ex-spouse remarry before the end of the year which follows the year you were first divorced, the period of time between marriages counts toward the 10-years-married requirement.  Since you first divorced in May of 1996 and then remarried in July of 1997, the time between those dates counts as though you were still married during that time, so the 10-years-married rule is satisfied.  In other words, having met all of the criteria, you will be eligible to collect reduced benefits as a divorced spouse when you apply at age 62.

For information, the way Social Security will calculate the benefit you are entitled to will be to first determine what you’re entitled to on your own work record.   Since you are also eligible for divorced spouse benefits, and if your own benefit is less than you are entitled to as a divorced spouse, you would be “deemed” to be filing for the divorced spouse benefit too, and your benefit amount will be raised (“boosted”) to that which you are entitled to on your ex-spouse’s record.  When you apply, be sure to take with you proof of both marriages to, and divorces from, your ex-husband.  And be aware that if you claim your benefit at age 62, it will be permanently reduced for the rest of your life.

Article By – Russell Gloor, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at [email protected].


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Susana Adame
3 years ago

I was married to my husband 2 times. Our first time on 3/8/1968 and divorced on 3/18/76. The second time we remarried on 3/8/1981 and divorced on 10/17/88. I have never married either between marriages or after the last divorce. I am now 68 yrs old. When I contacted SSA to see if I qualified for his benefits as first wife I was told I was not qualified since it was two different marriage and not one. Can you clarify this for me?

5 years ago

Recall, you don’t have to try to figure out which benefit is higher, nor to opt for either one. Social Security automatically does that for you, and gives you the higher benefit, according to this article.

5 years ago

The reduced percentage is 30% of your benefit if you retire at 62 and I would strongly recommend you do not retire early as that is a lifelong reduction on everything you are eligible for. Also, people have the idea that you can opt for your spouse’s higher benefit and this is not true anymore. You will get your own benefit as this is yours always plus 1/4 of your spouse’s and if you retire early they will reduce that 30% more. I was told by the Social Security that you never start with 1/2 your spouse’s benefit. It is 1/2 of 1/2 their benefit and then reduced by 30% if you retired early. Then that is added to yours and you get both of those amounts as one payment monthly. I went through all this with Social Security when my husband retire at full retirement age after I had retired early. I asked why his benefit was reduced for what I would get and got told I’d always receive 30% less of everything no matter whether his were full or not.

Maria Rose
5 years ago

I would highly recommend you review what you would get in monthly amount between your own benefit and a spousal benefit because getting any benefit at age 62 is much lower than getting it at full retirement age. I say this as a divorced spouse myself, I found out that my benefit was higher than my ex’s even though I made less than him in pay. There are ways to have income that doesn’t get counted for Social Security. Unless you are physically unable to work until full retirement age try not to as a woman file for benefits at age 62, because that benefit amount is what you will be stuck with for rest of life with no real raise in amount.

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