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Columns: Dr. Don
Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP   Expert: Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP
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Ex may get benefit before former spouse
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Divorce impacts Social Security payment

Dear Dr. Don,
I am now divorced, but previously was married for more than 10 years to a man who earned much more than me. I have been told by the people at Social Security that I cannot collect based on his income until he files for benefits.

Is there a way to be notified by Social Security when that happens, or must I call? Every time I ask them a question, they send me an excerpt from their rule book that doesn't answer my question. Please help.

-- Janice Juncture

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Dear Janice,
For you to collect, both you and your ex have to be at least 62, and he has to be either entitled to or receiving benefits, which doesn't happen until he's 62.

As long as he is eligible to receive benefits, you can collect your portion even if he isn't currently receiving benefits, so long as you've been divorced for at least two years.

For readers not familiar with the issue, I've provided an excerpt from the Social Security Web site, "Benefits for your divorced spouse":

If you are divorced (even if you have remarried), your ex-spouse may qualify for benefits on your record if you are 62 or older. In some situations, he or she may get benefits even if you're not receiving them yet. (If your spouse will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, his or her Social Security benefit on your record may be affected.) To qualify on your record, your ex-spouse must:

  • have been married to you for at least 10 years.
  • be at least 62 years old.
  • be unmarried.
  • not be eligible for an equal or higher benefit on his or her own Social Security record, or on someone else's Social Security record.

If your former spouse continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to him or her as apply to you. If your ex-spouse is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect those benefit payments.

The Web site also points out that, "If you remarry before age 60, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends."'s corrections policy -- Posted: Nov. 26, 2007
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