Part 2: How Remarrying Can Affect Your Social Security Options

In “Part 1: You May Qualify for Social Security from Your Ex-Spouse,” we outlined the requirements of how you may qualify for Social Security benefits based on the work record of your former spouse. On the flip side, if you were the higher earner of the two, your ex could possibly claim benefits based on your work record. Your New York divorce must be finalized at least two years before making a claim.

Here, we look at two other aspects of claiming Social Security after divorce. What happens if you or your spouse remarries? What happens if your ex dies?

Remarriage and Social Security Claims

If you meet all other eligibility requirements, you can claim Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work record no matter how many times they remarry. There is no limit to how many people can make a claim against a person’s earnings. The ex’s benefits aren’t impacted either.

While there’s no limit to how many ex-spouses can make a claim against someone’s work record, you lose eligibility for benefits from an ex-spouse if you remarry. In that situation, any Social Security benefit you receive will be either based on your own work record or that of your current spouse.

If you divorce your second spouse, or third, etc., Social Security will analyze benefits from all your marriages that lasted at least 10 years. You will receive the greater of the spousal retirement benefits. If your second marriage ended before the 10-year mark, you are still entitled to benefits from the first marriage (unless you remarry).

Claiming Survivor Benefits if Your Ex Is Deceased

Remarriage generally precludes you from spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse. The rules are different for survivor benefits. If your ex dies, you may be entitled to survivor benefits if you didn’t remarry before the age of 60 (age 50 if you have a disability).

A few details to know about survivor benefits include the following:

  • A divorced spouse who collects survivor benefits at full retirement age would be entitled to assistance equal to 100% of the deceased’s benefits.
  • If you receive spousal benefits at the time of your ex’s death, the Social Security Administration will automatically increase your monthly allotment to the higher survivor benefit after receiving the report of death.
  • If you collect benefits based on your own work record, you will only receive survivor benefits if it’s more than what you currently receive.

If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse won't affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker's record.

No Double-Dipping in Social Security Benefits

You are not able to collect multiple Social Security benefits at the same time. You will receive the higher of the available benefits.

While you cannot collect concurrent benefits, you can claim the benefits consecutively in some situations:

  • If you were born before Jan. 2, 1954, and have reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your own retirement benefit until a later date.
  • If your birthday is Jan. 2, 1954, or later, you cannot run your benefits consecutively. You will file for whichever benefit is highest.

The situation changes if your ex-spouse dies. If you are eligible for retirement benefits but haven't applied yet, you can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit later.

Knowledgeable Legal Counsel for Your Divorce

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we want our clients to receive all their eligible benefits. If you are divorced and have questions about Social Security, you should contact the Social Security Administration. If you are considering ending your marriage, our legal team can explain the potential financial implications of a divorce.

Schedule a free initial consultation by calling (845) 605-4330. Put our more than 75 years of collective experience to work for your divorce.

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