If You Are Divorced From a Marriage Lasting at More Than Ten Years You May Qualify for Your Former Spouse’s Social Security Benefits

There are many unknown aspects of divorce.
Perhaps you have not talked with your former spouse in ten years; however, even long after the divorce, you could collect money from it. This is unknown by many.

Those with a minimal working background who may not make very much in Social Security benefits would really benefit from collecting from a former spouse. Those with a large work history and would like to begin retirement before utilizing their own Social Security benefits, could tap into their former spouse’s benefits to begin with.

“It’s an important topic because so many people are divorced, but it seems women know about these benefits while men seem to overlook it,” says Andy Landis, a former Social Security Administration claims administrator an author of Social Security: The Inside Story. “A man seems to tend to want to file on his own record.”

The requirements are  if you are sixty-two or older and your ex-spouse too, and were married at minimum ten years, are divorced a minimum of two, and are currently unmarried, you may qualify.

Women are typically aware of this more than their former spouses because on average their individual  income is not usually as large, and they are commonly more concerned about money post divorce, Landis says.

“It’s interesting,” he says. “When I have a live group of 30 people in a room and slides with a ‘Madam X,’ and I ask if Madam X can file on her ex-husband’s Social Security when she gets retired, almost always it’s a bunch of female voices that say yes. The women know, and the men are quieter about that.”

If you are sixty-two or older, you can submit against your former spouse and collect thirty-five percent of their Social Security. If are sixty-six, you can collect fifty percent of your former spouse’s Social Security. It lands between those percentages if you submit between those years.

“While it maxes out at 50 percent, there’s a big exception to that, too,” Landis says. “If the ex is deceased, it can be up to 100 percent of the ex’s payment. I get a laugh out of that one, too. That’s not supposed to be an incentive. If you’re the husband, think about it. She’s going to get 50 percent while you’re alive and 100 percent if you’re dead.”

To get a former spouse’s Social Security, you have to have been married at least ten years prior to the divorce. That’s the biggest point. If happens at nine years and ten months, you should have waited to sign the papers until it had been ten years, Landis says. The other main point is being unmarried. Landis, who does public presentations on the this, says he received a call from an outlying island of Washington State from a female is an artist and collects very little Social Security and wondered how to collect more.

“I said maybe you can get on as a spouse, and she said she’s married to an artist and his Social Security is really low, too,” Landis says. “She said she used to be married to an airline pilot, and I said that’s great because you can file as an ex-spouse on his, but you’re currently married. I told her she had to be single to get on as an ex-spouse. I hear her yelling to the other room, ‘honey. This guy says we can get more money if we’re divorced.’ He says, ‘sounds good to me.’ I don’t know what they did, but I have heard of people at least considering a divorce of convenience so they can file on an ex-spouse’s record. Her best pay was going to be filing on the airline pilot’s record. That seems like a lot of trouble to get a little more money on your Social Security, but maybe she needed the money.”

If you submit prior to reaching age sixty-six, you would need to submit your own paperwork in addition to some to collect spousal benefits. It is a collective deal, and it is not possible to receive the spousal payment at age sixty-two and then change to your own at sixty-six or seventy.

There are different options that can be advantageous, Landis says.

If you are currently working, you may wait until you are sixty-six to submit for the former spouse’s payments, which can be fairly low because they do not exceed fifty percent. You can collect them for four years while waiting for your own Social Security to rise and maxes out at 70.

“For those four years, you can draw the ex-spouse payment as a bridge to get you to your own payments that can be at 132 percent,” Landis says. “You can even be working during that time part time or full time. Most wouldn’t have figured that into their retirement picture.”

The former spouse’s payment could range from $500 to $1,200 per month, and if you are employed part-time, the earnings would not be subject to reductions at age sixty-six, Landis says. Your personal benefit rises thirty-two percent by beginning to receive it at age seventy instead of sixty-six, he says.

“It’s a plan to partially retire at 66 with part-time income, plus drawing some Social Security as yours is getting bigger every month,” Landis says. “That’s a real good plan, an awesome plan for someone who thinks they can’t retire.”

Landis says males should set their ego aside and submit on their former spouse’s record at age sixty-six should they desire to wait to begin their own at age seventy, at which point they could collect more money.

At times individuals are fretting that if former spouse files, it could hurt the their other former spouse or current spouse, Landis says. The truth is that it does not hinder anyone, and the other former spouse will  not be aware that it is happening.

“Way back in the old days when I worked at Social Security, sometimes the husband would come in and ask if she was getting Social Security on his record, but you can’t tell them because of the Privacy Act,” Landis says. “Even if they want to know, they won’t find out in official channels. It doesn’t affect them in any way, and it doesn’t affect them if they’re currently married in any way. Don’t sweat it. It’s none of your business if she gets payments on your record or her own record or somebody else’s record.”

Landis speculates individuals are unaware that former spouse payments exists to begin with, which can be a disadvantage if they desire to bring in more income or enter retirement earlier.

In addition, not every individual would like to pursue it.

Landis, who is sixty-four, states that he spoke with his former spouse last year, and she questioned what to do about increasing her Social Security benefits. He states he advised her to submit on his once she is sixty-six and change to her personal benefits at age seventy like he tells others to do.

“I told her there’s a catch that you’ve got to be single, but she was planning a wedding,” Landis says. “She said no way, I’m going to go ahead and get married.”

Of course, being remarried now, she can submit for a her new husband’s spousal benefit once they have been married for at least a year. She can acquire fifty percent of his benefit and change to her personal benefit at age seventy.

It is not the really a romantic notion; however, some financial calculations exist that individuals need to be aware of should they remarry, Landis says. Should a former spouse pass away, one can remarry and while  maintaining the ability to collect their former spouse’s benefits; however, this is only true if you remain single at least until age sixty. If you plan to remarry and the date is set prior to your sixtieth birthday, you should wait.  

“Keep the door open to those widow benefits,” Landis says, “because they might be your highest payment route in the long run.”

One way is to begin receiving the widow amount at sixty and change to your personal benefit at age seventy if it is to rise, Landis says. If it increases, sixty-six when it reaches its full potential.

Distributed by Now it Counts

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