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Spousal Social Security Benefits: Here’s How To Claim

Social Security Benefit
Social Security Benefits for Spouse (Photo: Time and Date)

Social Security retirement benefits include spousal payments, which are quite significant. A spousal benefit is provided to compensate for a spouse who receives a lesser benefit owing to a lower lifetime earnings record.


Social Security Benefits for Spouse (Photo: Time and Date)

Social Security Benefit

In a recently published article in Market Watch, a married couple’s labor is often divided, with one working full-time during his or her career and the other either working at home, possibly caring for children, or working part-time or irregularly outside the house throughout his or her working years. This scenario may result in one spouse having a much better lifetime earnings record than the other, resulting in a significantly larger Social Security payout than the spouse with the lower earnings record.

When there is a large earnings gap between the two spouses, Social Security offers a method for the lower-earning spouse to obtain a boost to his or her benefits, up to a maximum of 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s entire retirement benefit. If the pair is still married, it’s a very simple procedure to calculate the size of the potential spousal benefit for planning reasons.

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How to Qualify?

First and foremost, we must explain the conditions that must be fulfilled in order for Ann to be eligible for a spousal benefit. Ann must be at least 62 years old to qualify for Social Security payments. David, Ann’s ex-husband, must also be at least 62 years old and qualified for a retirement payment based on his work history. Ann also cannot be eligible for a retirement payout that exceeds 50% of David’s full-retirement age benefit. These criteria are comparable to those of a married pair, but that’s where the parallels stop.

In addition to the aforementioned criteria, Ann and David’s marriage must have lasted at least 10 years prior to the divorce. Ann will no longer be eligible for spousal benefits if she has been married for fewer than ten years. Ann also has to be single at the time she applies for (and receives) the spousal benefit. Following the divorce, she might have married again, but in order to collect spousal benefits based on David’s wages, she had to be unmarried at the time of her application and keep it that way.

If Ann and David divorced more than two years ago, she is immediately eligible for spousal benefits based on David’s record, provided all of the preceding criteria are fulfilled. If the divorce was completed less than two years ago, Ann will not be eligible for the spousal benefit until one of two things happens: 1) the two years pass, or 2) David applies for his own Social Security retirement benefit.

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