Are You Eligible For Ex-Spousal Social Security Benefits As A Divorced Spouse?

Spousal benefits are probably the most misunderstood Social Security benefit. Ex-spousal benefits may seem even more convoluted. To keep things simple, ex-spousal benefits are basically the same as current spousal benefits with certain exceptions.

There are two categories of divorced spouses. If you are divorced two years or less, your ex-spouse must be receiving their Social Security benefit for you to qualify and receive an ex-spousal benefit. If you are divorced for more than two years, you are considered “independently entitled” and eligible to file for ex-spousal benefits if your ex-spouse has not filed for their own Social Security benefits but is eligible to file for Social Security benefits.

  • The maximum spousal benefit available to an ex-spouse is 50% of your ex-spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount.
  • As an ex-spouse, you will receive 50% of your ex-spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount only at your full retirement age.
  • Taking an ex-spousal benefit prior to your full retirement age always means the benefit will be reduced.

Here is a summary of requirements to file for ex-spousal benefits. To be eligible to collect an ex-spousal benefit, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • Your ex-spouse must be living.
  • You need to be single.
  • You need to be at least 62.
  • You must have been married 10 years or more.
  • The ex-spousal benefit must be greater than your own worker benefit.

Additional considerations include:

  • If you remarry, you cannot collect benefits from an ex-spouse.
  • If you are divorced from more than one spouse and meet the requirements for both ex-spouses, you can claim benefits from the higher earning spouse.
  • The Social Security benefits paid to an ex-spouse do not affect benefits available to a current spouse.
  • The annual earnings limitation applies to ex-spousal benefits if you file before your full retirement age.
  • If you have another government pension, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) will apply.
  • And finally, there is no advantage to be gained by deferring collection of ex-spousal benefits past your full retirement age. This is because the delayed retirement credits earned by filing after your full retirement age only apply to your own worker benefit, not a spousal benefit.
  • If your ex-spouse passes away, you are no longer entitled to an ex-spousal benefit. The Social Security benefit you are now entitled to is a survivor benefit.

Divorce can be challenging especially when it comes to the financial ramifications. Understanding your options in relation to your Social Security claiming strategies as they relate to your own Social Security benefit and an ex-spousal benefit is an important piece to solidifying your future financial health.

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