Is There Any Way Around Having To Obtain My Ex-Wife's Birth Certificate?

Nov 5 2018 - 5:10pm

Hi Larry - I loved your book on How to Get Yours... - incredibly informative and useful!
One issue I've run into that was not mentioned is this:
I'm FRA 66 and trying to apply for my ex-spouse's benefit (she's 64). Social Security is telling me I have to provide a certified copy of her Birth Certificate from New Jersey in order to prove her age.
She is not co-operating by returning the NJ form that permits me to get the certified birth certificate and NJ says I need a court order.
Social Security says without the birth certificate I have to wait until she turns 65 and files for Medicare for them to have proof of her age.
Is there a way around this requirement from Social Security? Right now I stand to lose an entire years ex-spouse benefits (or spend big bucks to get a court order) - Many thanks - Jerry

Hi Jerry,

I wish I could give you a simple answer, but there isn't one. Social Security can use documents other than a birth certificate to establish proof of age, but it depends on the circumstances involved. Section H of the following reference from Social Security's operations manual (POMS)outlines the development required to prove the worker's age in independently entitled divorced spouse claims: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300202100.

If you read the reference noted above, Social Security can use evidence of age other than a birth certificate if the birth certificate cannot be obtained within 10 days. If you can satisfy the folks at your Social Security office that obtaining your exes birth certificate within 10 days isn't possible, they should be willing to accept other documents that prove her age. The problem with that is that what they would then want are documents listing her age or birthdate that were recorded early in her life, which would no doubt also be difficult to obtain. Examples are listed in the following sections of POMS: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200302115 & https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200302118.

What you should definitely be sure to do is file a claim and get a formal determination from Social Security. If worse comes to worst and they disallow your claim, it can be reopened at a later date when evidence of your wife's age is established, which might not happen until she eventually files for some type of benefits. In the case of a reopening, you could potentially be paid retroactive benefits back to age 66 even if several years go by before the reopening occurs. You would probably have to file a written request to get Social Security to reopen your claim, though. On the other hand if you were to simply delay filing until your wife later applies for Medicare or monthly benefits, you would only be able to claim retroactive benefits for no more than 6 months.

Best, Jerry