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For the Divorced: 2 Popular Social Security Questions Answered

Social Security Answers for DivorcedIf you were married for 10 years or more, you can collect a spousal benefit based on your ex’s earning record, as long as you’re both 62 or older and either: a) your ex has filed for his or her retirement benefit or b) you have been divorced for at least 2 years. But how does a new spouse affect what an ex collects? And what if you don’t want your ex collecting on your work record? Here are the answers, from Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits.

IF MY EX’S NEW WIFE COLLECTS ON HIS EARNINGS RECORD, CAN I COLLECT TOO?

Q: If my husband’s ex-wife tries to collect spousal benefits when my husband starts collecting, how does that affect any spousal benefit I am eligible for when my husband is deceased or if we divorce? Does her claim reduce mine?

A: Whether she files for a divorce spousal benefit and what she collects has no impact on what you can collect as a spouse or, for that matter, as a surviving widow, were your ex-husband to predecease you. The last thing Social Security wants is to be in the middle of family feuds over who should get what benefits.

HOW CAN I KEEP MY AWFUL EX FROM COLLECTING ON MY WORK RECORD?

Q: I don’t want my horrible ex-husband collecting benefits on my work record. How can I prevent that?

A: Sorry, but your ability to restrict what your ex-spouse receives based on your work record is limited. Your best move in this regard is simply to get divorced before 10 years are up. In this case, your ex can’t receive any benefits of any kind based on your work record. But this cuts both ways. You’ll no longer be able to collect any benefits based on her or his earning record.

If you were married for 10 years prior to getting divorced, the only way to reduce the divorced spousal benefits available to your ex is by limiting your future covered earnings. This may reduce your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) compared to what would otherwise be the case. And having a smaller AIME means having a smaller Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), upon which your ex’s divorced spousal benefit is based.

How about divorced widower’s benefits? Here you can limit what your ex receives by taking your own retirement benefit early. This will reduce your own retirement benefit, which directly or indirectly affects the calculation of your ex’s divorced widower’s benefit.

But trying to spite your ex by earning less or taking your own retirement benefit early can limit your own retirement benefits as well as the spousal, child, and widower benefits that any new spouse and existing and new children can collect on your earnings record.

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