What Divorced Women Should Know About Social Security


Tips and Strategies for Divorced Women

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) if (1) you are unmarried, (2) you are age 62 or older, (3) your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and (4) the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age (FRA) if:

  • You remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
  • Your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

Some women sign divorce decrees relinquishing their rights to Social Security on their ex-husband’s work record. If you were married at least 10 years, those clauses in divorce decrees are worthless and are never enforced.

If you meet the requirements listed above, were married more than once and each marriage lasted ten years or longer, and you have been divorced for at least two years, you may receive benefits from the spouse you select if you are not now married again. (Make sure to inform the SSA of all your marriages that qualify you for ex-spousal benefits.) Larry Kotlikoff of Boston University provides this example, let’s say that the low-earner ex-spouse is over 62 and the high-earner ex-spouse will be 62 in several years. You could claim ex-spousal benefits on the low-earner ex-spouses work record, then when the higher earner ex-spouse turns 62 switch to the higher earner ex-spousal benefits and increase the amount of monthly benefits you receive.

About ksindell

Kathleen Sindell, Ph.D. is the author of numerous academic, popular, and professional finance articles, Web sites, proposals, and books. This includes the bestselling reference book, "Investing Online for Dummies, Eds 1-5" (listed for two consecutive years on the Wall Street Journal's Bestselling Business Book List). Her most recent book "Social Security: Maximize your Benefits" has been listed in Amazon's Top 100 Bestselling Retirement Planning Books. It is important to note that "Social Security: Maximize Your Benefits, 2nd Edition" was just released. Sindell has an in-depth understanding of the financial services industry and has held Series 7, 63, and 65 licenses. Dr. Sindell is regularly tapped as a financial services expert on ABC World News, The Nightly Business Report, and at popular online and print outlets. Kathleen Sindell, Ph.D. is a member of the Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association, National Capital Area (FPA NCA), is on the Editorial Advisory Panel of the Journal of Financial Planning, and is Co-Chair of the Metro Washington Financial Planning Day. Sindell is a Course Chair II, CFP Program Academic Officer, and adjunct full-professor at the University of Maryland, UMUC, School of Undergraduate Studies. Contact Information: ksindell@kathleensindell.com or 703-299-1700
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