Can I File For Ex-Spousal Benefits?

Nov 12 2018 - 4:24pm

Can I file for ex-spousal benefits. Both of us are 80. married 13 years. I remarried husband died 2011. I have been collecting my own SS since I was 66. Ex-spouses amount is higher. Can I receive the higher amount?


If I understand your situation correctly, you were divorced from someone after 13 years of marriage and your ex-spouse is currently age 80. If you subsequently remarried and that marriage ended in death or divorce, that marriage would not bar you from potentially qualifying for benefits on the record of your previous spouse. However, whether or not you would actually be eligible for divorced spousal benefits depends on the benefit rates involved.

Assuming that you started drawing your own retirement benefits at your full retirement age or later, your divorced spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting your full benefit rate from 50% of your ex-spouse's primary insurance amount (PIA). A person's PIA is the amount they would be receiving if they started drawing benefits at their full retirement age. In other words, you'd only be eligible for divorced spousal benefits if 50% of your ex's PIA is higher than your own full retirement benefit rate.

If you think that you may qualify for divorced spousal benefits, you'll probably want to contact Social Security as soon as possible. Divorced spousal benefits can only be paid retroactively for a maximum of 6 months from your month of filing, so a delay in filing could result in a loss of benefits.

By the way, if your ex-spouse dies before you, you could potentially qualify for survivor benefits if your ex's full benefit rate (or 82.5% of his PIA if that's more than what he's drawing) is higher than your own rate. So, even if you don't currently qualify for divorced spousal benefits it's possible that you might qualify for survivor benefits in the future.

Best, Jerry