Filing for Social Security involves a dizzying array of choices and decisions. When should you claim benefits? What’s the best way to maximize your income? Selecting the right options isn’t easy for anyone, and for those who are divorced it can be even harder. If you’re confused by the myriad of rules and regulations around filing for Social Security as a divorced individual, keep these guidelines in mind:
If you were married over 10 years, you can claim spousal benefits. This is true as long as you meet the following conditions:
- You’ve been divorced for at least two years at the time you file.
- You have not remarried.
- You have reached the age of 62 (or older).
- Your spouse is qualified by work history and citizenship to claim Social Security retirement/disability benefits.
Your spousal benefit will be equal to one half of the full retirement amount your ex-spouse is qualified to receive, assuming you file at your full retirement age. In many cases, this could be more than the amount you would receive based on your own work history – if you were out of the work force caring for children, for example. If your own work record is higher than you will receive your own benefit. In either case if you file at age 62 this could reduce your benefit as much as 30% for the rest of your retirement which can cost you thousands of retirement dollars.
You can receive the full amount of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit if he or she passes away. If your ex-spouse is deceased you can receive benefits as a widow or widower instead of spousal benefits. You qualify for the full amount of your ex-spouse’s retirement benefit, just as you would if you had still been married at the time of death. The rules are similar to those for spousal benefits:
- The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
- You must have attained your full retirement age (your benefit will be less if you file early).
- You must not have remarried before age 60. A marriage at or after the age of 60 will not affect your ability to qualify for this type of benefit.
In both types of Social Security benefits, it makes no difference whether your spouse has remarried one or more times. These benefits are yours if you qualify based on your age and marital status, even if there is a current spouse or widow who also collects benefits.
Still confused? Please contact our office for a consultation. We’ll help you clarify your options and find your best path forward.