Qualifying for your Divorced Spouse’s
Social Security Benefits

Hello Toni:

Can you explain how the new rules effect one receiving Social Security benefits from a divorced spouse after the April 29th deadline?

Now that the kids have grown, I am not receiving child or spousal support and I need help making ends meet.  A friend suggested that I could receive my ex’s Social Security benefits and still work full time. I would like to know how to do that.

~ Thanks, Sonya from Spring, TX


Yes Sonya…You can!

The new change with how one can receive their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits was not included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (HR 1314).

The maximum amount of Social Security benefit one can receive on an ex-spouse’s record is 50% of what their ex-spouse would get at their full retirement age (FRA). FRA between 1943 through 1954 is the month you turn 66.

Rules for qualifying for your Divorced Spouse’s Social Security Benefits are:

  1. Your Divorced Spouse must have worked 10 years and paid Social Security (FICA) taxes from his paychecks.
  2. Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
  3. You must be at least 62 to file for benefits, but these Social Security benefits will be reduced.  Wait until your FRA and you can receive 100% of the benefits.
  4. You must be unmarried when you file.  If you remarry, then your benefits from the ex-spouse will stop.
  5. Your ex-spouse does not have to file for their own social security benefits for you to be eligible to receive a benefit based on their record.
  6. You will have to provide originals, not copies, of marriage license, divorce decree and even death certificate if your ex-spouse has passed.

Sonya, estimate approximately what your ex-spouse earned and with his date of birth, you can use the Social Security calculator at Social Security Calendar to estimate the approximate benefit.

Many ex-spouses file for the 50% divorced spouse benefit and delay claiming their own.  Each year past your FRA (full retirement age) that you postpone taking your own benefit, the government pays you an 8% bonus called the “Delayed Retirement Credit” (DRC).

If your FRA is age 66 and you wait until you reach 70 to begin your own Social Security, then your benefits have been increased by 32% and can also earn the annual Cost-of-Living increases that the Social Security benefits have received. And so your monthly Social Security benefit has grown! This can be a smart move…don’t you think?

Sonya…your second question is about what happens if you begin drawing your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits and you go back to work. Can you do that?

Once you have attained your FRA, then you can earn as much as you like. That’s a good thing!

If you collect Social Security income before your FRA, Social Security applies the earnings test.  If your annual income from wages is more than $15,720 annually in 2016, then your Social Security income is reduced by $1 for every $2 that your wage income exceeds $15,720 annually

If you wait until the year of your FRA, your Social Security income is reduced by $1 for every $3 that your wage income exceeds $41,880.

Once your FRA begins, then the earnings test ends.  The earnings test is another reason to delay Social Security benefits until after age 66 or your FRA.

Toni King, author of the new Medicare Survival Guide®, a simple guide that puts Medicare in “people” terms, now on sale on this website (click here). Email questions to Ask Toni.

Share This