When Can I Take Advantage Of Spousal Benefits?

Jan 23 2019 - 11:13am

I just turned 62 in December 2018 and filed for early SS for $761 per month. I got my 40 credits in when I was young. I became a Minister and stopped paying into SS for 30+ years, thus the low SS amount. I have been married for 22 years to a wonderful breadwinner the entire marriage. However, 1) I became disabled and couldn't work 8 years ago and could not qualify for SSDI (disability) for not paying SS for the previous 5 years. 2) Separated 4 years ago and haven't had an income since thus forced into early retirement. And 3) My future ex-wife is 11 years younger than I (just turning 51). I am in the process for SSI which may add an extra $200 per month. When can I take advantage of Spousal Benefits and is there anything else that I may qualify for? Thank you for your commitment to helping us!


Unless your ex-wife dies or starts drawing Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), the earliest that you could potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits is when she reaches age 62. You could potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits at that time even if your ex-wife isn't drawing her benefits, but only if your divorce has been final for at least 2 years. If you were simply separated and not divorced, you couldn't qualify for spousal benefits at least until your wife starts drawing her benefits.

In order to be eligible for additional divorced spousal (or spousal) benefits your ex-wife's primary insurance amount (PIA) would have to be more than twice as much as your PIA. Your PIA is the monthly Social Security retirement benefit rate that you would have received if you had waited until your full retirement age (FRA) to start drawing your benefits. If you do qualify for divorced spousal benefits, your unreduced monthly rate would be calculated by subtracting your PIA from 50% of your wife's PIA. That amount would then be paid in addition to your reduced retirement benefit.

By the way, if you do end up qualifying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits and you later qualify for divorced spousal benefits, your SSI payments will be offset dollar for dollar by any divorced spousal benefits for which you qualify.

As for other benefits, my expertise is limited to Social Security benefits only and nothing in your question would lead me to think that you would be eligible for any other types of Social Security benefits. You may want to check with the Department of Social Services in your area to see if you might qualify for any needs based programs.

Best, Jerry