A spouse is one of the most common beneficiaries of Social Security benefits. Most people know that they can qualify for spousal benefits based on their spouse’s work history, even if they have not worked on their own. But many people get divorced and remarried during their lifetime. Some might even do this more than once. So, how does getting divorced and remarried affect your Social Security retirement benefits? Can a second wife still get Social Security payments from her husband? Keep reading as we give you all the details about Social Security spousal benefits, including how they work and strategies for maximizing your payments.
Can A Second Wife Get Social Security From Her Husband?
Yes, a second wife can get Social Security benefits based on the earnings record of her husband. Even if the husband’s ex-spouse is receiving benefits, this does not prevent the current spouse from receiving benefits as well. So, when can a spouse claim spousal benefits? To qualify, the second wife must meet all the eligibility requirements for spousal benefits. This means that the marriage must have lasted at least one year, and the husband must already be receiving Social Security retirement benefits. In addition, the second wife must be at least 62 years old. The age limit does not apply if the second wife is caring for a child under 16 or a disabled child.
For purposes of Social Security retirement benefits, these same rules apply to a spouse regardless of how many ex-spouses the primary earner has. For instance, a third or fourth wife could receive Social Security from her husband as long as she meets the rules mentioned above. The wife also does not need to have her own work history. As long as the husband is receiving benefits, the marriage has lasted at least one year, and the wife is 62 or older, then she can receive benefits.
A spouse’s benefits are typically 50% of the primary insurance amount of the primary benefit recipient. If the spousal benefits are started before full retirement age (FRA), then they will be reduced. If a spouse is already receiving these benefits and the primary earner passes away, then the spouse can switch to survivor benefits. The amount of these benefits is 100% of the primary insurance amount of the deceased spouse.
How A Second Marriage Affects Your Social Security Benefits
The way that remarriage affects your benefits depends on whether you are receiving benefits from your own work record or the work history of your former spouse. If your benefit amount is calculated on your own earnings record, then a second marriage will not affect your benefit payments at all. Your monthly payments will not change when you remarry because you are receiving your own benefits. Similarly, your benefits are not affected by a spouse or ex-spouse receiving benefits based on your record.
However, if you are receiving spousal benefits based on the record of your former spouse, then getting remarried could cause the Social Security Administration to put a stop to your benefits. If your former spouse is still living, then getting remarried will put an end to any spousal benefits that you are collecting. There is an exception to this rule for survivor benefits, though. If your former spouse is deceased and you are collecting survivor benefits, then you can get remarried as long as you are 60 or older. In that case, your survivor benefits will not be affected. If the surviving spouse is younger than 60 when she remarries, then she will no longer qualify for Social Security survivor benefits.
Social Security Eligibility For Divorced Spouses
So, how can an ex-wife or ex-husband qualify for benefits based on the ex-spouse’s record? There are a few simple rules that the Social Security Administration (SSA) sets forth for an ex-spouse to collect Social Security based on their ex-spouse’s benefit. These rules are as follows. First, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years. Next, the ex-spouse wishing to claim spousal benefits must be at least age 62. They must also not be remarried. Remember that getting remarried while your ex-spouse is still living will stop all eligibility for spousal benefits based on the ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit. Lastly, your ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
So, what happens if you are divorced more than once? You might qualify for a monthly benefit based on more than one ex-wife or ex-husband’s Social Security benefit. In that case, you would receive the higher benefit amount of the two. Suppose that you had two marriages that both lasted ten years and met all the other qualifying requirements. In that case, you would be entitled to the higher amount of the two. When you claim Social Security benefits, the SSA will calculate your monthly payment based on both spouses’ work records. The higher of the two will be selected as your benefit amount.
Even if your ex-spouse has a new spouse who is currently receiving spousal benefits, this does not affect your ability to receive spousal benefits as well. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, then you can still receive those benefit payments regardless of the current marital status of your ex-spouse.
Strategies For Applying For Benefits As A Divorced Spouse
When performing retirement planning, most people look for ways to maximize the amount of money they will receive each month. When looking at Social Security, there are strategies that you can use to make sure you are maximizing your spousal benefit. If your birthday is before January 2, 1954, you have more options than those born after that date. Those born before that date often employ the following strategy. Upon reaching age 62, go ahead and start spousal benefits based on your ex-wife or ex-husband’s record. This will allow your own Social Security benefit to grow. When you reach age 70, then your own retirement benefit will be maxed out, and you can switch over to the full benefit amount based on your own earning’s record.
However, for those born after January 2, 1954, this is not an option. When you apply for Social Security benefits, you are effectively applying for all benefits to which you are entitled. This includes your own benefits as well as spousal benefits from any ex-spouses for which you might qualify. The Social Security Administration pays your benefits based on your own record first. If your benefit would be higher based on your ex-spouse’s earnings, then that amount is added to your monthly payment to raise your benefit to the higher amount.
You can sign up for a free My Social Security account at SSA.gov to get an estimate of your retirement income. There are many tools and calculators available there that allow you to estimate your benefits based on several factors. If you have questions or need assistance, it is always wise to get the assistance of a personal finance expert to help you with retirement planning.
When you apply for benefits, you will need some information about your ex-spouse. You will need the person’s Social Security number. This is the easiest way to identify your ex-spouse. If you do not have their SSN, then you may use their date and place of birth, along with their parents’ names. You likely will not need the divorce decree, but you should have it just in case. You will also need your own SSN, and there are a few ways that you can apply. The easiest way to apply for benefits is online through SSA.gov. You can also apply over the phone or at your local Social Security office.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how many times you have been married, your current wife can get Social Security as long as she meets the criteria for spousal benefits. An ex-wife can also receive benefits, but the requirements are a little harder to meet. Getting remarried will prevent an ex-wife from receiving benefits from the ex-husband’s record, although she can still receive a widow’s benefit in some cases even if she gets remarried.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an ex-wife and current wife collect her husband’s Social Security?
Yes, both an ex-wife and current wife can collect spousal benefits based on the husband’s Social Security. For the purposes of Social Security, both a current wife and ex-wife can be considered dependents of the primary recipient. To qualify for benefits, the current wife must be at least 62, and the marriage must have lasted at least one year. The ex-wife must not be remarried, and the marriage must have lasted at least ten years.
Who is the primary beneficiary for Social Security?
The primary beneficiary is the person whose work record is used in calculating the primary benefit amount. A spouse, ex-spouse, child, step-child, or even parent can qualify for dependent benefits based on the work record of the primary beneficiary. This applies to both retirement benefits and disability benefits.
What age do you have to be to collect Social Security?
In most cases, you need to be 62 or older to collect Social Security. However, there are some special rules that apply to spousal benefits and survivor benefits that allow you to collect benefits at a younger age. For example, if a spouse is caring for a child under 16 or a disabled child, then he or she can qualify for spousal benefits regardless of age. To qualify for Medicare, you typically need to be 65 or older. Again, there are special exceptions that allow disabled individuals to qualify sooner.