“I am in the process of divorce and nearing retirement age. I have been married for 40 years and raised three children who are now fully grown. My career was raising the kids and taking care of my husband. I now realize that my Social Security benefits based on my earnings record will be negligible. My attorney mentioned that I would be entitled to benefits via my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s record. How does this work?”
There are two basic scenarios by which you can collect benefits using your husband’s record.
Scenario 1: At the time of the divorce, your ex-husband is receiving Social Security benefits.
If so, you can receive benefits on your ex-husband’s Social Security record provided that the following requirements are met:
- You were married for at least 10 years before your divorce became final;
- You are at least 62 years old;
- You are not married at the time you apply for benefits; and
- Your individual benefits are less than 50% of your ex-husband’s benefits.
Scenario 2: At the time of your divorce, your ex-husband is eligible for, but not receiving, Social Security benefits.
In this scenario, you must meet all the requirements in Scenario 1, and your ex-husband must be at least 62 years old. To collect under this scenario, you must wait 60 days after your divorce is final to apply for benefits.
You would be entitled to 50% of your ex-husband’s benefits under both scenarios. Your ex-husband’s benefits are not reduced by any payments you would be entitled to. (Example: your ex-husband is collecting, or eligible to collect, $1,536 per month. You would be entitled to receive $768 per month and your ex-husband would still be entitled to receive $1,536 per month). The amount of benefits you receive as a divorced spouse has not affected should your ex-husband remarry.
Your benefits are affected when you remarry or your ex-husband dies. If you remarry and your ex-husband is alive, your benefits will stop a month after you remarry. If you remarry and then your ex-husband dies, you will become eligible once again for benefits, but now you would be collecting as a surviving divorced spouse. The benefits under this classification are higher than the benefits as a divorced spouse. The amount of benefits you will be paid depends on your age at the time of your ex-husband’s death. If you are 60-64, you will receive a percentage (between 71% and 94% as determined by your age) of his benefits. If you are 65 or older, you will receive 100% of his benefits.
You will have to provide your ex-husband’s Social Security number when you apply for benefits if you are going to collect under his record.
The Social Security Administration can answer any questions you have on this matter. Their toll-free number is 1-800-772-1213.
Henry Guberman is the partner in charge of the matrimonial accounting department of ParenteBeard LLC. He is a diplomate with the American Board of Forensic Accountants, a Certified Fraud Examiner, and Accredited in Business Valuation. He has been a CPA for more than 23 years and has extensive experience in providing expert consulting and testimony services to assist counsel and their clients in marital disputes.