When it comes to divorce and Social Security, timing is so important! Most people do not realize that if the marriage lasts at least 10 years, you can file a claim on your ex’s benefits. This can add thousands of dollars to your lifetime benefits from Social Security. If you remarry, however, you will no longer be able to file a claim for divorced spousal benefits.
Another little known fact is that you can actually claim both benefits. You cannot claim both benefits at the same time, but you can claim divorced spousal benefits at age 66 (currently the full retirement age) and then switch to your own benefits when you turn 70. It may not seem like it would make that much difference, but waiting to start your own claim can add thousands of dollars to your lifetime amount.
Some people start claiming Social Security before age 66. If you choose to do this, you won’t have a choice between using your benefits or your ex-spouse’s. Remember, too, that if you work at all during those years before retirement, you will reduce your benefits each month.
If you do remarry, you will lose any benefits from your formal spouse, but it only takes a year before you can choose to use your new spouse’s benefits. For anyone who is married more than 10 years more than once, you can choose which spouse’s benefits you want to draw from.
Claiming Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse’s income does not reduce the amount he/she will get each month, so you don’t need to worry about contacting them about the benefits. When you decide to file for Social Security, talk to your case representative. He/she can help you decide what option is better for your situation. You may want to consider discussing your situation with a financial counselor before you file your claim.
Remember that if you or your spouse has worked in occupations that do not report income, there may no benefits for you to claim. Public school employees often do not contribute to Social Security, so if you were a teacher, you may need to claim divorced spousal benefits simply because you won’t have enough in your benefits package to support yourself when you retire.
You will be eligible to file a claim for divorced spousal benefits when both of you are age 62. You have to be divorced at least two years to do this, but you don’t have to wait until age 66. This is important to keep in mind if money is tight and you need financial help.
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