Can I File For Benefits On My Ex-Husband's Record Even If He Hasn't Yet Filed?

Aug 28 2017 - 6:52am

I am almost 69, so could have started taking social security at age 66 but I was planning to take it at 70 so it would be at its max. At age 66 I looked into the idea of claiming on the basis of my ex-husband's earnings (we were married 13 years) but it looked like I could only do that if his social security benefits were higher than mine. He told me that because of the total taxed social security earnings ceiling he thought we would each get the same amount. However that ceiling in 2017 is $127,200. I'm sure he exceeded that but I didn't. He turned 70 in February of this year and retired in May from a job as dean of a law school. He is planning to work part time. I don't know if he has applied for social security. Given these facts, can I file for social security based on his earnings, if they are higher than mine (and he always earned more than me and worked until 70, whereas I retired at 63 and did a year and a half of part-time work, which has now ended)? Can I do this even if he has not filed for social security benefits? How much before I turn 70 should I apply to get my own benefits?

Hi,

It sounds like you could have been drawing divorced spousal benefits since age 66 assuming that you divorced at least 2 years before that and haven't remarried. That's true regardless of how much your own benefit rate would be, provided that you haven't already started drawing benefits on your own record.

Your ex doesn't need to be drawing his benefits in order for you to potentially be eligible for divorced spousal benefits as long as your divorce has been final for at least 2 years. Unfortunately, though, you can only claim divorced spousal benefits retroactively for up to 6 months before your month of filing, so it sounds like you would likely want to file for them ASAP. You could then switch to drawing benefits on your own record at age 70 if your own rate is higher than your divorced spousal benefit rate at that time, and you could file that application up to 4 months prior to the month you reach age 70. You should strongly consider using the maximization software on this website to make sure that you choose the optimal filing strategy.

Best, Jerry