Ask Larry

Can I Draw Benefits From My First Husband's Record?

Hi Larry: I have an unusual situation. I was married for the first time for 30+ years. I am married now but getting a divorce after 20 years. Can I draw from my first husband since my second husband only receives 120.00/month. My first husband draws the maximum and has paid his full year of SS by June. We are both in our 80's. I currently receive 691.00/month which is not enough to do anything on. I have to live with my daughter because I could no longer afford to stay in my home and pay lot rent. I had a manufactured home. It is my understanding that I should be able to draw at least half of what he draws. Is this true? A while back I was told that all I could get is $400.00 from him. I know that he draws at least 2500.00 or more. Do I have to wait until the divorce is final before I can file? I am doing it on line because I cannot afford a lawyer, or anything else for that matter. By the time I pay for my bladder control underwear, my phone, and a few groceries, am broke for the month. I have to use my daughters wi-fi in order to have my computer. I do have a small bill from Amazon. I also have a small life insurance policy that I have to pay for. Thanking you for your response. Jeanne

Hi Jeanne. Yes, it sounds like you may become eligible for divorced spousal benefits on your first husband's record, but not until your divorce is final. You must be unmarried in order to potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits. If you apply for benefits on your first spouse's account before your divorce from your second husband is final then Social Security will disallow your claim. So, there's no point in applying before your divorce is final.

The amount that you could collect as a divorced spouse depends on at what age you started drawing your own benefits. If you started drawing your own benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA), then that would lower the total monthly amount that you could be paid. When a person is drawing their own benefits and they later become eligible for divorced spousal benefits, their unreduced divorced spousal rate is calculated by subtracting their own primary insurance amount (PIA) from 50% of their ex-spouse's PIA. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA). The divorced spousal rate is then added to their own benefit amount.

For example, say Amy filed for her benefits at age 62. Amy's primary insurance amount (PIA), or full retirement age rate, would be $1,000, but Amy's rate is reduced for age to $750. Fifteen years later, Amy becomes eligible for divorce spousal benefits on her first husband's account. Her ex's PIA is $2,500, so Amy's divorced spousal benefit amount is $250 (i.e. 50% of her ex's PIA, or $1250, minus her own PIA of $1000). Amy is then paid her own reduced benefit rate of $750 plus her unreduced divorced spousal rate of $250 for a total benefit of $1000.

Best, Jerry

May 3 2022 - 1:38pm
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