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As a Divorcee, know the Social Security Claiming Rules

Are you divorced (and not remarried)? If so, did you know that you may be able to claim Social Security benefits on your former spouse’s earnings record?

As of April 29, 2016, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 highly restricted two popular Social Security benefit-claiming strategies for married couples. However, divorced spouses are independently eligible to collect ex-spouse spousal benefits on one another's earnings record.

Do you meet these requirements?

According to the Social Security Administration, if you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record (even if your ex-spouse has remarried) if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • You are not married;
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older;
  • The benefit that you are entitled to receive as an ex-spouse is greater than the benefit you would receive based on your own work record; and
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Are you independently entitled?

Furthermore, if you have been divorced at least two years you are “independently entitled” to ex-spouse benefits. This means that even if your ex-spouse has not yet applied for benefits, but can qualify for them, you may be eligible to receive ex-spouse benefits. If your ex-spouse remarries, he or she generally cannot collect benefits on your earnings record unless his/her later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).

Here’s a strategy if you are at least 62:

If you are age 62 or older by January 1, 2016, consider further the restricted application strategy. People in this age group may, at their full retirement age (FRA) of 66, “file a restricted application for ex-spousal benefits only.” By doing so you can collect this benefit from ages 66 to 70 while your own retirement benefit continues to accrue the 8% a year (32% at age 70) in delayed retirement credits. At any time between ages 66 and 70 you can file to switch from the ex-spousal benefit to your own retirement benefit if it becomes higher than the ex-spousal benefit.

For more information, go to: 


Patti Kane, Kane Financial Planning, LLC