You Can Claim Social Security Benefits Earned By Your Ex
The end of a marriage doesnt spell the end of being able to get get a Social Security benefit based on your former spouses earnings. You can still receive a benefit based on his or her record instead of a benefit based on your own work record, so long as you were married at least 10 years, you are 62 or older, and you are currently unmarried. And guess what: If you’ve made multiple trips to the altar, you can pick which spouse’s benefits you want to claim, based on what’s most beneficial to you.
Like a regular spousal benefit, you can get up to 50% of an ex-spouses benefitless if you claim before full retirement age. And the beauty of it is that your ex never needs to know because you apply for the benefit directly through the Social Security Administration. Taking a benefit on your ex-spouses record has no effect on his or her benefit or the benefit of your exs new spouse. And unlike a regular spousal benefit, if your ex qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply, you can still start collecting Social Security based on the exs record, though you must have been divorced for at least two years.
Note: Ex-spouses can also take a survivor benefit if their ex died after the divorce, and, like any survivor benefit, it will be worth up to 100% of what the ex-spouse received. If you remarry after age 60, you are still eligible for the survivor benefit.
Your May Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Benefits
Most people know that Social Security is funded by a tax on earnings, currently 6.2% for the employee . But some retirees dont realize that you may well have to pay income tax on Social Security benefits when it comes time to claim them. Benefits lost their tax-free status in 1984, and the income thresholds for triggering tax on benefits havent been increased since then.
It doesnt take a lot of income for your Social Security benefits to be taxed. Your benefits wont be taxed if your provisional income is less than $25,000 if youre single or $32,000 if youre married. If youre single and your provisional income is between $25,000 and $34,000, or married filing jointly with provisional income between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. If your provisional income is more than $34,000 on a single return or $44,000 on a joint return, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.
The Social Security Administration says about 40% of beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits. Since the thresholds arent adjusted for inflation, the number of beneficiaries who pay taxes on Social Security benefits increases every year. The Social Security Trustees annual report estimates that taxes on Social Security will total $45.1 billion in 2022, up from $34.5 billion in 2021.
You may also have to paystateincome taxes on your Social Security benefits. See our list of the 12 States That Tax Social Security Benefits.
Claiming Early Or Late
Your spousal benefit is based upon your partner’s “normal” benefit amount. But the amount you receive will depend upon when you begin to claim it.
You can claim spousal benefits as early as age 62, but you won’t receive as much as if you wait until your own full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you choose to claim spousal benefits at 62, you’d receive a benefit that’s equal to 32.5% of your spouse’s full benefit amount.
The amount increases with each year you delay. At your full retirement age you’d be eligible for the maximum, which is 50% of your spouse’s full benefit.
Notably, spousal benefits are not reduced if the spouse is caring for a child who qualifies under the age or disability rules. Spousal benefits can never exceed 50% of the other spouseâs full benefit. So, there is no incentive to file for spousal benefits later than your own full retirement age.
An ex-spouse may be eligible for spousal benefits even if the former spouse hasn’t retired yet.
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Spousal Benefits For Divorced Spouses
If you’re divorced, you may be eligible for spousal benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record. The rules are much the same, plus:
- Your marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.
- You must currently be unmarried.
If your former spouse hasn’t filed for benefits yet, you can still file for spousal benefits if you have been divorced for at least two years.
If your ex-spouse is still living, in most cases you must be at least 62 years old and your spouse must be old enough to qualify for benefits.
If your ex-spouse has died, your benefits are similar to those of a widow or widower.
What We Will Ask You
Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.
You should also have your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.
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The Rules Changed In 2015 Here’s What You Need To Know Now
If you have never worked or paid Social Security taxes , you won’t be eligible to claim Social Security retirement benefits on your own account. However, you may be able to receive spousal benefits through your spouse’s account. You can file a claim under their account as early as age 62, as long as your spouse has already filed to collect their own benefits. You will also be able to apply for Medicare health coverage at age 65.
If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment
If you receive a check or direct deposit payment from the Treasury Department and do not know what its for, contact the regional financial center that issued it. Only the agency that authorized the payment can explain why you received it.
If you received a check, look for the RFCs city and state at the top center. Then contact that RFC to find out which federal agency authorized the payment. It will be one of these:
If you received payment byelectronic funds transfer , or direct deposit, follow the directions under Find Information About a Payment.
Use the Treasury Check Verification System to verify that the check is legitimate and issued by the government.
Who Is Eligible For Spousal Social Security Benefits
In general, you may be eligible if you are married, divorced, or widowed and your spouse was eligible for benefits.
Those who apply for spousal benefits must have been married for at least one year. Your spouse must also have begun receiving Social Security benefits unless you are widowed. In the latter case, you may be able to receive the full amount of your late spouses benefits as opposed to the spousal benefit, assuming their benefit is higher than yours. However, you will not be eligible to receive your late spouses benefit if you remarry.
Even ex-spouses can file based on your earnings. The requirements for claiming benefits based on your ex-spouses work record include:
- You must have been married at least 10 years.
- You must have been divorced from the spouse for at least two consecutive years.
- You are unmarried.
- Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
- The benefit you would receive from your work record would be less than this spousal benefit.
In theory, a person could marry someone new every 10 years and give them a spousal benefit as a parting gift, says Russell D. Knight, an attorney in Chicago. Its better than nothing.
But its not like that money comes out of your monthly benefit check, so rest easy.
Examples Of Deemed Filing Rules
Example 1: Maria turns age 62 after January 1, 2016. Her husband, Joe, is 65. They have each worked enough years to earn a retirement benefit. In March of 2020, Maria has reached her full retirement age and files for benefits. Maria is eligible for a spousal benefit on Joes record. Maria must file for both benefits. She can no longer file only for the spousal benefit and delay filing for her own retirement. She will receive a combination of the two benefits that equals the higher amount.
Example 2: Jennie is a 62-year-old widow. She is eligible for retirement benefits based on her work history, and she is also eligible for survivor benefits based on her deceased husbands record. She starts her survivor benefit this year and only applies for widows benefits. She does not start her own retirement benefit, allowing it to grow. At age 70, she starts her own increased retirement benefit, which she will receive for the rest of her life. The new law does not affect her because deemed filing does not apply to widows and widowers. Jennie will receive the higher of the two benefits
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Spousal Social Security Rules
For many working couples, both partners will be eligible to collect individual benefits. However, that does not preclude either person from collecting under the other person’s account. When you apply for benefits, both accounts will be checked to determine which claim will result in a higher benefit amount.
If your own benefit is larger, you will automatically receive that amount. If your spousal benefit is larger, you will receive a combination of benefits that total that amount.
While you can apply for spousal benefits as early as age 62, your benefit will be permanently reduced from what you would receive at your full or “normal” retirement age. Full retirement age, for Social Security purposes, is between 66 and 67, depending on your year of birth.
One exception: If you are caring for your spouse’s child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits, you can collect spousal benefits at any age without a reduction.
In addition, if you decide to claim before full retirement age, your benefit amount may be reduced if you continue working, depending on how much you earn. Eligibility for government, foreign, or public service pensions may also affect your payments.
If you wait until full retirement age to claim benefits, you’ll receive the maximum amount you can collect as a spouse. That is equal to 50% of your spouse’s benefit amount.
The benefits claiming strategy known as “file and suspend” has been totally eliminated.
Apply For Benefits Online
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you develop a disability. Follow these easy steps to apply online for disability:
- To start your application, go to our Apply for Benefits page, and read and agree to the Terms of Service. Click Next.
- On that page, review the Getting Ready section to make sure you have the information you need to apply.
- Select Start A New Application.
- We will ask a few questions about who is filling out the application.
- You will then sign in to your personal mySocial Security account, or you will be prompted to create one.
- Complete the application.
You can use the online application to apply for disability benefits if you:
- Are age 18 or older.
- Are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record.
- Are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- Have not been denied for disability in the last 60 days.
Note: If your application was recently denied, our application is a starting point to request a review of the determination we made.
You may be able to file online for SSI at the same time that you file for SSDI benefits. Once you complete the online process described above, a Social Security representative will contact you if we need additional information.
Also Check: What Is Social Security Disability Benefits
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Required Forms For Applying For Service Retirement
You must apply for service retirement benefits before your PEERS retirement date by filing the Service Retirement Application and other required forms listed below. You need the free Adobe® Reader®to view these forms.
You can print these forms below, or contact us to receive copies by mail. We will acknowledge receipt of your forms.
First Change: Timing Of Multiple Benefits
There are incentives to delay filing for retirement benefits. Your benefits increase for each month you delay receiving retirement benefits between full retirement age and age 70.
Before the change:
Previously some spouses received spousal benefits at full retirement age, while letting the retirement benefits based on their earnings record grow by delaying to file for benefits.
What did the law change?
If you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, and:
- You are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse in the first month you want your benefits to begin and
- You are not yet full retirement age, you must apply for both benefits . You will receive the higher of the two benefits.
If you turn 62 on or after January 2, 2016, and:
- You are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse in the first month you want your benefits to begin, then:
- Deemed filing applies at age 62 and extends to full retirement age and beyond. In addition, deemed filing may occur in any month after becoming entitled to retirement benefits.
Deemed filing means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouses benefit, you are required or deemed to file for the other benefit as well. The Bipartisan Budget Act extends deemed filing rules to apply at full retirement age and beyond.
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What Does It Take To Qualify For Social Security Spousal Benefits
Unlike most rules related to Social Security, the rules for the spousal benefit entitlement are pretty straightforward and easy to understand.
If youve been married to your current spouse for at least one year, youre eligible for a spousal benefit under their work record.
Pretty simple, right?
You may also qualify for the spousal benefit If youre divorced but the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and youre not currently married.
Getting A Social Security Number For A New Baby
The easiest way to get a Social Security number for your child is at the hospital after they are born when you apply for your childs birth certificate. If you wait to apply for a number at a Social Security office, there may be delays while SSA verifies your childs birth certificate.
Your child will need their own Social Security number so you can:
- Claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return
- Open a bank account in their name
- Get medical coverage for them
- Apply for government services for them
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Calculating Social Security Spousal Benefits
Spousal benefits are based on your spouses primary insurance amount, which is the amount theyre eligible for at full retirement age . Depending on how old you are when you start Social Security, you can receive 32.5% to 50% of your spouses benefit.
If you wait until your full retirement age which is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later youll qualify for the 50% maximum. But if you claim as soon as youre eligible at 62, youd only receive 32.5% of their full benefit.
When you take your own retirement benefits, you can earn 8% delayed retirement credits for each year you wait past your full retirement age until you reach your benefit cap at age 70. However, you cant earn delayed retirement credits when youre taking spousal benefits. Youll receive your maximum benefit once you reach full retirement age.
You also wont earn extra if your spouse waits past their full retirement age. The rules are different for surviving spouses, as well discuss shortly.
If you take spousal benefits, you wont affect the benefits your husband or wife receives. Their benefit is based solely on their primary insurance amount and when they claim.
Beware The Social Security Earnings Test
Bringing in too much money in earned income can cost you if you continue to work after claiming Social Security benefits early. With what is commonly known as the Social Security earnings test for annual income, you will forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 you make over the earnings limit, which in 2022 is $19,560. Once you are past full retirement age, the earnings test no longer applies, and you can make as much money as you want with no impact on benefits.
Any Social Security benefits forfeited to the earnings test are not lost forever. At your full retirement age, the Social Security Administration will recalculate your benefits to take into account benefits lost to the test. For example, if you claim benefits at 62 and over the next four years lose one full years worth of benefits to the earnings test, at a full retirement age of 66 your benefits will be recomputed and increased as if you had taken benefits three years early, instead of four. That basically means the lifetime reduction in benefits would be 20% rather than 25%.
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Exceptions To Deemed Filing
Deemed filing applies to retirement benefits, not survivors benefits. If you are a widow or widower, you may start your survivor benefit independently of your retirement benefit.
Deemed filing also does not apply if you receive spouse’s benefits and are entitled to disability, or if you are receiving spousal benefits because you are caring for the retired workers child.