It is a little-known fact: If you're divorced, it's possible to claim Social Security spousal and survivor benefits from your ex. It is a strategy that can dramatically boost your benefits - and it will be important for more retirees in the years ahead.
Today’s retiring generations face new challenges simply not seen much by past generations. The wax and wane of Congress for one, and the dramatic rise of healthcare costs for another. An additional challenge hits a little closer to home for other retirees – those who are divorced.
If you have been divorced, it is critical that you understand how Social Security benefits take divorce into account. Demographically speaking, this is even more essential for retiring women.
The role of Social Security benefits in the retired life of a divorcee can be crucial, as discussed in a recent Reuters article titled “Column: Knowing Social Security rules can help divorced spouses.”
Basically, Social Security payments are related to your paid work during your working years. As a result, many ex-spouses simply have not built up sufficient “numbers” because of how household incomes were split back in the day. Interestingly, you may be eligible for many of the same benefits as if you had remained married to your ex.
But it is not automatic. Here are some threshold requirements:
- You must be currently single,
- You must have been married to your ex for at least 10 years,
- Your divorce must be “final” for at least two years,
- You must have reached the minimum Social Security eligibility age (62), and
- You must not be currently collecting a benefit amount greater than that of your ex.
Note: Your eligibility is completely independent of the benefits collected by your ex, but you will lose the benefits if you remarry. I recommend reading the original article for additional tips and traps.
Call or visit your local Social Security office regarding the folder of paperwork you will need to gather for qualification.
Reference: Reuters (May 9, 2013) “Column: Knowing Social Security rules can help divorced spouses”