What benefits are available and when? It depends. Social Security is very complicated at best with over 2,728 rules and regulations. We find ourselves using the word “depends” over and over – but, case in point as to why this benefit should be professionally reviewed before filing.
The BASICS – as long as you were married at least 10 years, are divorced and currently single, are age 62 or older, you can collect benefits on your ex-spouse’s earnings record just as if you were still married, even if your ex has remarried. A spousal benefit is worth 50% of the worker’s benefit if claimed at age 66 or older, and a reduced benefit if taken earlier than age 66.
Now to the EXCEPTIONS to the rules:
- The law was changed on November 2, 2015, and only those turning age 62 by this date, can take advantage of this claiming strategy.
- If you wait until age 66, you can file a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits. This will allow you to collect only Spousal Benefits for up to 4 years, while your own benefit grows at 8% per year up to age 70. Then you can switch to your own increased benefit amount.
- If you are also entitled to benefits on your own work record and you claim before age 66, Social Security will only pay you a Spousal Benefit if it is larger than your own.
- Divorced spouses can each claim spousal benefits on their ex’s earnings record, assuming they are old enough to be grandfathered under the old rules.
- If you have been divorced at least two years, you are “independently entitled” to benefits. This means you can claim benefits from your former spouse even if that spouse has not yet filed for his/her Social Security benefits. Both must be at least 62 years of age.
- If you wait until age 60 to remarry, you can collect survivor benefits if your ex-spouse dies.
Without exception, Divorced Social Security benefits calculations are the most complicated of cases we review – simply because there are many rules and exceptions to deal with. We highly recommend that all divorced individuals have their benefits professionally reviewed before claiming. Contact us at 601-954-0699 or visit our website at www.pillarsllc.com. Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a retired CPA.