If you’re elderly and divorced, you might be getting shorted on Social Security payments by collecting lower benefits than you might be eligible for, based on the earnings history of a former spouse. (See Wall Street Journal Article) A person can collect SS benefits based on (1) his or her own earnings, (2) fifty-percent of her spouse or former spouse’s benefit, if it greater than his or her own, or (3) one-hundred-percent if he is deceased. Divorced spouses must have been married ten years or longer and the person seeking a former spouse’s higher benefit must currently be unmarried, unless she remarried after age 60, in order to receive larger monthly benefits.
The Wall Street Journal provided this example:
Let’s say your mother was married in the 1950s or 1960s for at least a decade. Perhaps she was out of the work force raising children and subsequently worked at low-paying jobs, so her benefit might be, say, $800 a month.
By contrast, her former husband—with more years in the work force and higher wages—might be eligible for a monthly benefit of $2,000. (Social Security benefits currently max out at $2,366 a month.)
Your mother might not realize she can collect a total of $1,000 a month if her former spouse is alive, and $2,000 a month if he isn’t. If the Social Security Administration determines she is eligible for higher benefits, she also will receive retroactive amounts going back six months. For the woman in the example above, that would be a lump sum of either $1,200 (six times $200) or $7,200 (six times $1,200).
The fact that the ex-husband might have remarried does not affect what his current spouse will receive nor does it require any involvement with the former spouse. The Social Security Administration should have former spouse earnings history, whether alive or not, and make it determination based on those records.
If you are interested in learning more about divorce or preparing for your retirement, please contact the experienced family law and estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.