Dear Dr. Don,
My boyfriend is divorced (his marriage lasted longer than 10 years) and we are planning on getting married in the near future. How long would we have to be married in order for his ex-spouse to not collect his Social Security benefits?

On the Social Security website, it states that payment to an ex-spouse would not affect payment to the current spouse, but does not state if there is a time limit on the remarriage.
— Brandi Benefits

Dear Brandi,
It’s not your boyfriend’s remarriage that would impact his ex’s ability to get retirement benefits based on his work history — it’s whether she remarries. And even then, there can be circumstances where she can receive benefits based on the ex-husband’s work history.

The Social Security Web page “Benefits for your divorced spouse” states:

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried;
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older;
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on his or her own work is less than the benefit he or she would receive based on your work; and
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

If you have not applied for retirement benefits but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits on your record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

If your divorced spouse remarries, he or she generally cannot collect benefits on your record unless their later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).

My best advice is for you to stop worrying about whether his ex can at some point collect retirement benefits based on your boyfriend’s work history — because it doesn’t impact you — and focus on building a life together with him.

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